Orlando Bloom frittered away his A-list movie star years acting in action franchises and coupling with models, starlets and pop stars.
But every now and again, usually in a movie nobody gets around to seeing, he reminds us he can be more than tabloid fodder. Once in a blue moon, he takes on a film and a role with substance.
“Retaliation,” which was filmed in 2017, is a drama that presents him as a tormented soul, a man who has squandered whatever potential he might have had for a life in home demolition.
Malcolm, “Malky” to his mates, is a brooding, quiet, ill-tempered mug who wields his sledgehammer with particular relish on his latest work site — knocking down an old church.
He lives with his aged mother (Anne Reid), has a few drinks at the pub with his mates, letting mouthy Jo (Alex Fern) hold the floor, regaling one and all of tales of Malky’s temper.
Every so often, Malky ducks away for furtive, furious fornication with the fetching barmaid, Emma (Jennifer Montgomery).
But left by himself, his usual choice, he rends his flesh and he carves words into his hammer’s handle. He pushes away Emma any time there’s even a hint of intimacy.
“You think I need you? I don’t need anybody.”
And as miserable as he seems, that’s nothing compared to the tailspin he goes into the moment he spies the man who used to be the priest there, white-haired with age but still recognizable.
A reckoning is coming. The man with a violent temper and impulse control wrestles with formless notions of revenge. And the tirades and tender mercies of a street preacher (Charlie-Creed-Miles) foretell violence, revenge or perhaps some other form of redemption.
Bloom does a nice job of expressing, wordlessly, where this man has been, what blend of guilt, fury and obligation drive him and shaped his life. It’s not the most subtle character or film built around an abuse survivor, but there’s substance in the performance that lifts “Retaliation” above its hammered-home metaphors.
Montgomery, an “Entourage” and “This is Us” veteran, brings a fragile earthiness to Emma, and and Fern is given a couple of pub monologues overflowing with color and wit, even if they stop the film.
That’s what first-time feature directors like the Shammasian Brothers do — let themselves get distracted.
Reid-Miles almost steals the picture as an unschooled man-of-faith with the zeal of the “converted,” and just enough of his past poking through to make him fascinating.
The COVID pandemic derailing the theatrical film release model has meant that little films with modest expectations have had a chance to shine — Tom Hardy’s “Capone,” the combat thriller “The Outpost” in which Bloom also appears, and this movie that slips out in between Orlando Bloom/Katy Perry and Baby Makes Three tales from the tabloids.
Here’s to hoping that he and filmmakers looking for a star to carry their indie drama make something of it.
MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent/sexual content, language throughout, and some nudity
Cast: Orlando Bloom, Janet Montgomery, Charles Reid-Miles, Alex Fern and Anne Reid,
Credits: Directed by Ludwig Shammasian, Paul Shammasian, written by Geoff Thompson. A Saban Films release.
Running time: 1:33