June 20, 2020
by Carla Hay
Directed by Rob Boyask
Culture Representation: Taking place in unnamed cities in England, the action flick “I Am Vengeance: Retaliation” has a predominantly white cast (with a few black people and Asians) portraying highly trained government mercenaries and the criminal underworld.
Culture Clash: A mercenary for hire ends up leading a team to capture a rogue former agent who’s become an outlaw fugitive.
Culture Audience: “I Am Vengeance: Retaliation” will appeal to people who like an action flick to be ultra-violent and don’t care if the movie is dumb.
Even before anyone watches a second of the action film “I Am Vengeance: Retaliation,” it’s easy to see that it’s mindless schlock that doesn’t try to pretend that it isn’t. There are hints at the end of the movie that the filmmakers (including writer/director Rob Boyask) hope that it can turn into a franchise. But if there are any sequels to this movie (which won’t have a large audience), then don’t expect there to be any improvements. You can’t turn noxious garbage into a gourmet meal.
“I Am Vengeance: Retaliation” doesn’t waste any time in showing its nonstop parade of violent killing sprees and hand-to-hand combat. The opening scene is of mercenary-for-hire John Gold (played by Stu Bennett) storming into a strip club with an assault rifle. He sees three goons who are in charge at the club and demands that they confess to the kidnapping and homicide of a young woman whose murdered body was found the day before.
John tells the assembled thugs that he was hired by the young woman’s parents to get justice for her murder. John says that he knows that the strip club was the last place where she was seen alive before she disappeared two weeks prior. The three hoodlums at the club (who are also armed with guns) refuse to confess, so John proceeds to kill them all. He shoots two of them to death, and he murders another one by breaking his neck.
This is the kind of movie where someone who is outnumbered and outgunned still manages to pick off opponents, one by one. It’s the type of action sequence that happens over and over until it becomes a very boring and predictable repeat loop that strangles any type of suspense this story could have had.
After committing this murder spree in the strip club, John steps outside to find a secretive government agent named Frost (played by Mark Griffin) conveniently waiting for him. Frost tells John that he wants John to lead a team to find and capture one of John’s former colleagues named Teague (played by Vinnie Jones), who was declared dead but the government has recently discovered that Teague is actually still alive.
Teague is a former government operative who went rogue several years ago, by turning on his team (which resulted in the murder of several members), and he went underground to become a mastermind criminal. Teague’s dirty dealings include assassinations, arms deals and illegal smuggling.
And what’s in it for John if he helps capture Teague? Frost tells John that the government will wipe John’s entire slate clean. It’s left up to this movie’s viewers to imagine what that means.
The next thing you know, John is in a bunker type of room, in a secret meeting with Frost, a crusty leader named Commander Grayson (played by David Schaal) and the five other members of the operative team tasked with finding Teague. Commander Grayson tells the team that their mission is to transport Teague to an “off the books” airbase then fly him to an “ever so hush-hush” area where “he’ll live out his days in a steel box.”
Two members of this team are the ones who spend the most time with John on the assignment: tough-as-nails Rachael (played by Lainy Boyle) and John’s right-hand man Shapiro (played by Sam Benjamin), who acts as if he wants to be like Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt character in the “Mission: Impossible” movies. The members of this team don’t have very distinct personalities from each other because they’re basically written as people who act like programmed robots or characters in a video game, by going into automatic fight mode when the situation calls for it.
It doesn’t take long for the team to capture Teague, but he escapes when the van they’re in is attacked by a mysterious, masked sniper. This sniper is named Jen Quaid (played by Katrina Durden), and she has an agenda that’s different from John’s team: She wants to kill Teague. Her reason for doing so is extremely predictable, as if the movie’s title isn’t enough of a hint.
The rest of the movie then shows John’s team battling with Teague’s group of thugs to re-capture him, while both groups are also trying to fight off Jen, who’s a one-woman army with martial-arts skills and some hidden tricks up her sleeve. Because there’s not much of a plot to this mindless fightfest, “I Am Vengeance: Retaliation” repeatedly shows Teague being captured and then escaping and then being captured. Rinse. Spin. Repeat.
The “I Am Vengeance: Retaliation” costume design by Emily-Rose Yiaxis has to be singled out here as especially unimaginative and (quite frankly) lazy. Everyone in the movie’s fight scenes is dressed head to toe in black, except for Teague’s “trophy girlfriend” fiancée Pearl (played by Jessica-Jane Stafford), who’s decked out in a fur coat and a low-cut red dress to show off her ample cleavage. Not surprisingly, Pearl doesn’t really do much except stand around and observe the action. Wouldn’t want to mess up that fur coat.
One of the funniest things about “I Am Vengeance: Retaliation” is it repeatedly does what bad action movies do: When someone is captured or has a gun to their head, instead of being killed right away (which is what would probably happen in real life), the captor spends a lot of time talking while holding the gun (or knife or grenade or whatever weapon is used) to someone’s head/neck/whatever, thereby leaving enough time to be caught off guard and overtaken. It happens so many times in this movie that as soon as someone with a weapon pauses to talk in the middle of a physical fight, it’s almost a guarantee that the motormouth is going to be ambushed.
John is apparently a legendary mercenary because even some of Teague’s thugs are slightly in awe of him. When one of Teague’s henchmen named Renner (played by Bentley Kalu) holds a knife to John’s neck and is about to kill him, Renner drags out the moment by striking up a conversation with John. When one of his cohorts admonishes Renner for taking his time to kill John, Renner says, “Don’t rush me. I’m killing a hero here.” Renner then asks John, “Any last words?” John’s reply: “Prepare to be deeply embarrassed.”
It goes without saying that the movie’s terrible dialogue can make watching this dreck somewhat bearable if people can laugh at how bad it is. In one scene where Rachael wishes John good luck when he temporarily goes off on his own to find Teague, she says to him, “Don’t get killed and stuff.” In another scene when John and Teague have an inevitable one-on-one showdown, Teague says to John: “You’re like herpes. I can’t get rid of you.”
There is no cure for herpes, but there’s a cure for anyone who experiences this stupid junk pile of an action film: Watch a “Mission: Impossible” movie instead.
Saban Films released “I Am Vengeance: Retaliation” on digital and VOD on June 19, 2020.