19th Jun2020

‘I Am Vengeance: Retaliation’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Stu Bennett, Vinnie Jones, Jessica-Jane Stafford, Lee Charles, Joe Egan, Katrina Durden, Greg Burridge, Josh Myers, David Schaal, Bentley Kalu, Sam Benjamin, Mark Griffin, Lainy Boyle, Jean-Paul Ly, Leon Sua, Phoebe Robinson-Galvin | Written and Directed by Ross Boyask

It hasn’t taken long for writer/director Ross Boyask to follow up 2018’s Vengeance (aka I Am Vengeance) with a sequel, probably because that film struck a massive chord with genre fans across the globe – respecting the action genre’s vast, and may I say beloved, past, whilst delivering a modern take on the traditional DTV action film; and, of course, featuring Stu Bennett in a compelling lead role. I’m guessing that the fact Bennett was on UK screens as part of World of Sport wrestling AND had a huge name presence thanks to his former WWE career didn’t hurt either.

However Vengeance proved that Bennett was so much more than an “ex” or “former” anything. He is a bona fide action movie star – a commanding screen presence who isn’t afraid to make fun of himself or the genre. The fine line Vengeance, and now its sequel, walk between hardcore action, serious drama and black comedy is what makes these films so much sheer fun. Fun in the old-school action movie sense… The kind of action movies you rented from the local video shop on artwork or name appeal alone and really bloody enjoyed for the pure entertainment they provided. Like I said Vengeance, and now it’s sequel, I Am Vengeance: Retaliation, reflect the genre’s past whilst moving it forward.

Oh and did I mention this is a British production? One that for all intents and purposes looks and feels like a US genre film. It’s a credit to filmmaker Boyask and his production team that both films in this franchise belie both budget and origins.

I Am Vengeance: Retaliation sees former special-forces soldier John Gold is given the opportunity to bring Sean Teague – the man who betrayed his team on their final mission in Eastern Europe several years ago – to justice. Gold would cheerfully see Teague dead, but he is convinced to help transport him to a military prison to pay for his crimes. Along the way, Gold will have to fight off Teague’s team who are attempting to extract him, as well as a sniper seemingly hell-bent on killing Teague before he can be secured.

Whilst Vengeance saw Bennett star alongside the action-movie legend that was Gary Daniels, this time round Bennett has a more modern genre actor to co-star alongside: Vinnie Jones. A man who has made massive headway into the genre, starring alongside some huge-name action movie stars – including Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Steven Seagal – managing to parlay his hard-man footballer persona into a hard-man acting persona. And here he’s a great foil for Stu Bennett. Whilst Bennett plays things a little tongue in cheek Jones keeps things deadly serious, the two playing off each other perfectly.

As per the first film, I Am Vengeance: Retaliation is packed with some amazing stunt work and fight scenes – the latter no doubt due to the appearance of Jean-Paul Ly in the cast and Tim Man in the credits. Man in particular is the unsung hero of many an action film. The Swedish stuntman and stunt/fight choreographer has been behind a myriad of action movies including the brilliant Kill ‘Em All and Scott Adkins movies such as Eliminators (which featured Bennett in a villainous role), Accident Man and Boyka: Undisputed 4 to name a few. Here Man has obviously brought more martial arts action to the franchise, with characters here preferring their fists and feet to firearms.

Kudos must also go to director Boyask and cinematographer Simon Rowling, who shoot the fights in I Am Vengeance: Retaliation at wide angles and with minimal cuts, allowing the action to play out on screen – showing just how well the fights have been choreographed and how well the cast, experienced or not, perform them too. Though special mention has to go to Phoebe Robinson-Galvin and Katrina Durden who’s fight scenes (against each other and against Bentley Kalu) are some of the best in the movie and show that anything men can do women can often do better!

Expanding on the revenge-seeking anti-hero of the first film, I Am Vengeance: Retaliation gives us a John Gold who puts his life on the line for friend and foe alike in the pursuit of what’s right foregoing the vengeance of the title somewhat to deliver a more traditional hero, the kind of which Chuck Norris would be proud!

***** 5/5

A worthy sequel to a damn-fine original I Am Vengeance: Retaliation is out in the US courtesy of Saban Films. The film is released in the UK on July 13th.

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