Movie review by
Danny Brogan, Common Sense Media
Retaliation Movie Poster Image
Brutal drama about sex abuse within the church.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 91 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Feelings of anger, shame, and revenge are at the fore of the movie. However, these eventually make way for forgiveness, particularly of one's self. Violence is often used to express emotions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Malky is a troubled man who due to the sexual abuse he endured as a 12-year-old, has anger issues and a sense of shame. He also subsequently has difficulty in maintaining his relationship with Emma. When he sees the priest who abused him over 20 years ago, he is overcome with a sense of revenge. However, he is shown to be a loving son to his mother -- despite a complex relationship -- and helped his friend, Jo, when he needed him. Emma tries to get close to Malky but is continuously pushed away. On the surface, Jo is a stereotype of an alpha male -- drinking heavily and getting into fights. But he also shows a caring side toward both Malky and Emma.


There is a foreboding sense of violence from the start. Repeated descriptions of child sexual abuse. A character flies into an uncontrollable rage, smashing a car window, hitting the driver with a hammer, and then punching their own friend unconscious. The friend ends up in hospital with sever cuts and bruises. There are other violent outbursts including punches, headbutts, and people having their throats grabbed. Someone repeatedly stabs their own hand with scissors, which results in them needing to have an operation to repair the damage. A character talks about "raping myself until I bleed." After pouring gasoline on themselves, a character sets themselves on fire in front of their young niece. A violent incident -- involving a knife -- is retold as a "funny" story. Another character recounts cutting their parent's head off. Someone dies of natural causes -- they are seen slumped dead in their armchair.


A couple have sex on two occasions -- one of which naked breasts are seen. The couple refer to their relationship as being "casual." A character bends over and uses a lubricated pole anally. Pornography on a laptop shows someone naked and masturbating saying, "I'm going to cum." Some male nudity, including naked buttocks and a brief glimpse of pubic hair. Reference to oral sex.


Multiple uses of "f---ing" and "f----r." "Bastard," "bloody," "c--k," "arse," "cum," and "c--t" are also used. Detailed descriptions of child sexual abuse. Someone describes themselves as waking up, "sweating like a rapist."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Several scenes take place in a pub, where characters drink multiple glasses of beer. Reference to drunken behavior but not depicted. A character is seen smoking a cigarette.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Retaliation (also known as Romans) is a troubling drama about child sexual abuse within the church. It features strong violence and language, and detailed descriptions of sex abuse. Malky (Orlando Bloom) is forced to face his traumatic past when he sees the priest that abused him as a child. Struggling to deal with his emotions, Malky is prone to violent outbursts. One involves him smashing a car window and brutally assaulting a stranger with a hammer. He also punches his friend unconscious, landing him in hospital. He abuses himself both sexually and physically. In one graphic scene, he repeatedly stabs the back of his hand with a pair of scissors. In another, he repeatedly inserts a pole anally while bent over in front of a mirror. Malky has casual sex with on/off girlfriend, Emma (Janet Montgomery) who he struggles to emotionally open up to. Though the sex scenes are brief, there is female nudity. Despite his flaws, Malky is shown to be a loving son and a loyal friend. There is a strong profanity throughout -- including "f--king" and "c-- t." Spoiler alert: In the movie's climatic scene, a character pours gasoline on himself and sets himself on fire. This is witnessed by a young girl. Due to the adult themes, violence, and strong graphic language, this movie is for older teens only.

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What's the story?

RETALIATION centers around demolition worker Malky (Orlando Bloom) whose painful memories resurface after he sees the priest who sexually abused him as a child. Overcome with a desire for revenge, Malky is forced to face his past and is left with a decision as to what to do next.

Is it any good?

A movie about historical sexual abuse within the church is never going to be an easy watch, nor should it be. Malky is a man whose sexual abuse when he was just 12 years old impacts every aspect of his life. It's led to him self-harming -- both physically and sexually -- and being unable to maintain any emotional relationships. But then -- after over 20 years -- he sees the priest who abused him. Malky's world starts to crumble, mirroring the churches he demolishes with his sledgehammer as part of his laboring job -- one of the many examples of symbolism used in Retaliation

The title is somewhat misleading (in some markets it's called Romans). It's far more character study than revenge thriller. Written by a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, there is an authenticity to the film. However, while the writer is perfectly placed to recount the feelings of anger, shame, and ultimately forgiveness, the material does not naturally lend itself to a cinematic experience. The movie starts in one vein but becomes something else entirely, as Malky begins to make peace with himself. Bloom gives a committed performance in a role that perhaps you wouldn't immediately associate him with. The scene in the confession booth is particularly powerful. This is a hard-hitting movie about a serious subject matter. It just may not take you in the direction you thought it would.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in Retaliation. What are Malky's motivations, and are you sympathetic to them? What scenes did you find most troublesome to watch?

  • The movie is about the sexual abuse of a child within the church. Why is it important to tell stories like this movie? How did what happened to Malky as a child impact him as an adult?

  • There is a lot of strong and sexual language in the movie. Does it seem necessary to the story? What does it contribute to the movie?

  • How is sex portrayed in the movie? Is it affectionate? Respectful? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

Movie details

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