I Am Vengeance: Retaliation – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: an ex-special forces soldier is recruited to track down a former colleague turned rogue who the government believed to be dead. Initially, the mission goes smoothly but the ex-soldier and his small team soon find themselves fighting for their lives against multiple forces. 

Is it any good?: in a word, no. Put it this way, Vinnie Jones – ex-footballer and, mostly laughable, thespian, – though he was good in Guy Richie’s Snatch – is the best actor in the film. Vinnie Jones. VINNIE JONES. This film is all most Expo level awful. Almost. It is definitely on par with that turd in terms of acting and execution. With better actors and a better script, this could have been a great spoof.

Unfortunately, the script is woeful and all the actors are obviously martial artists or stunt people. 

I Am Vengeance: Retaliation is watchable for the fight scenes and the truly laugh-out-loud script and story. Katrina Durden is worth watching for as well.

Spoiler territory: John Gold (Stu Bennett) walks into a nightclub and beats up a couple of security staff. The barman, who for some reason only known to himself, walks over to Gold brandishing a shotgun. He is promptly disarmed by Gold. Three ne’er do wells watch the scene unfold – they are sitting in a booth, so obviously they are who he has come for – they all stand up and approach the now armed Gold. 

Not the wisest individuals ever to have walked the earth, they try each try to shoot him and are sent to their maker one by one. One of them does manage to put up a bit of a fight, even though he has just been shot but promptly gets his neck snapped. 

Outside the nightclub, Frost (Mark Griffin) is waiting. He has come to recruit Gold to track down dangerous former ex-special forces soldier gone rogue, Teague (Vinnie Jones). Gold, unsurprisingly, has a personal grievance against Teague but Frost wants him brought in alive to face justice. Of course he does. 

Gold thought Teague was dead but apparently, he is alive and he is a bad man. Obvs. Frost tells him if he does this job his name will be cleared and he will get his life back. Not that he was exactly hard to find so exactly what life he is supposedly getting back is anybody’s guess. Anyhoo, with the chance to regain his…freedom, Gold agrees to do the mission. 

Gold goes and meets his team and is briefed on the mission by Commander Grayson (David Schaal), a man who looks as though the closest he has been to military action is viewing it on television. He tells the gathered about the target and how dangerous he is plus all the bad things he has done. He is a bad, bad man. 

Gold is assigned Lynch (Phoebe Robinson-Galvin) and Shapiro (Sam Benjamin) as his team. Teague heads to his hideout because he lives there and it is a good place for all the battles to happen and it makes him easier to find. Gold and his team find the not-hiding-at-all Teague’s lair. They quickly dispatch the two hapless guards outside and go inside. 

After smashing in on Teague and his heavily armed henchmen, there is a brief standoff before a shootout ensues. With nine people letting lead fly in a tiny warehouse, they all prove to be terrible aims and no one is hit before taking cover behind various boxes and trunks. 

Teague sends his henchmen out from their hiding places to try and subdue or kill Gold and his team. His thugs are quickly killed by team Gold and Teague is captured but not before a brief bout of fisticuffs with old enemy Gold. 

Gold and the team take Teague to their van, ready to take him to prison. As they are about to get into the van, a masked figure tries to kill Teague. Even with a scope, the shooter does not even wing him, continuing to shoot at the bulletproof van. Lynch takes the wheel and they drive off. The van, not being a vehicle built for speed, is pursued by an SUV driven by the masked assailant. 

Lynch, in a genius move, decides to leave the road and drive into a junkyard. She meets a dead end. The masked assailant comes up behind them, gets out of her vehicle and shoots at the van with a rocket launcher. The rocket launcher has the desired effect, blowing the doors open. 

The rattled team inside the van, see a nearby warehouse. Gold tells the others to take Teague to the warehouse. He will draw their assailant away. Gold gets out of the van. The assailant, in keeping with marksman standards set in the film, is unable to shoot him with a submachine gun. Lynch and Shapiro take Teague to the warehouse. 

The assailant goes after Gold. He ends up disarming her and they fight. Gold is a big guy, six-foot-six and not at all a beanpole, so at least one hundred and twenty kilos, about two and fifty pounds. The assailant is a woman. She is fit and a superb martial artist. She is tallish at five-seven but probably weighs less than sixty-five kilos, one hundred and thirty pounds. 

Gold, unsurprisingly, throws her around like a rag doll. She still gets in a good few kicks and punches but, truthfully, one punch from a man his size would probably concuss her. Anyhoo, they trade blows for a bit but are interrupted by more of Teague’s goons who have been tracking him to rescue him.

How they knew he had been captured is anyone’s guess. The goons train their automatic weapons on Gold and the assailant. They open fire. Not one bullet hits its intended target as Gold and the assailant run off in different directions. 

Gold contacts Frost to tell him about the situation. Frost decides to bring the rest of the team to help out Gold because I assume he doesn’t want to miss out on all the fun. Gold regroups with Lynch, Shapiro and their captive in a small room. Teague’s goons find them and blow the door off. The explosion disorientates everyone in the room except for Teague. Maybe because he was wearing handcuffs? 

Teague leaves with his girlfriend, Pearl (Jessica-Jane Stafford). He tells his main henchman, Renner (Bentley Kalu), to watch Gold and his team. As soon as Teague has left, Renner challenges the legendary Gold to come and take out his group of five next door. Renner and his guys go next door. Gold tells Lynch to go and get Teague. He will take care of Renner and the other goons. Shapiro is laying on the floor still reeling from the effects of the explosion. The wuss. 

Gold goes to fight the goons armed with an extendable baton. They all have semi-automatic submachine guns. Luckily, Renner does the villain thing of wanting to talk a good fight and Gold throw the baton at his head and starts beating on the rest. No shots get fired. 

Lynch catches up with Teague and Pearl. Kendrick (Laurent Plancel), another henchman, turns to confront Lynch. The two fight. Elsewhere, Gold is beating on the henchmen but gets blindsided and knocked to the ground. Renner pulls a knife.

Back outside, Lynch, another phenomenal martial artist, meets her match in the equally proficient Kendrick and takes a bit of a pounding. As he is about to beat on her some more, the assailant turns up and kills him. 

The assailant reveals herself. She is Jen Quaid (Katrina Durden) and she has a personal vendetta against Teague because he killed her father. Lynch tries to persuade her that they need to take Teague to face justice. Quaid does not agree. 

Lynch, who is obviously suffering from a concussion or extreme cockiness, decides to fight with Quaid. She gets her second ass whooping in as many minutes and is only saved from a more savage beating by Teague bashing Quaid with a brick. Teague runs into another building. The terminator like Quaid shrugs off her concussion and goes after him. She head-butts unconscious a momentarily feisty Pearl who tries to defend Teague. 

Upstairs in the warehouse, Teague is hiding in, Quaid confronts him. T-800 Quaid slaps Teague about a bit but is interrupted by the plucky but definitely concussed Lynch. Teague tries to attack Quaid from behind and gets kicked out of some first floor doors for his troubles.

Never-say-die Lynch gets into another fight with T-800 Quaid and is just about to get beaten again when Gold, who walks past a prone Teague outside the warehouse, stops her and throws her into a corner. 

Gold looks down to see Teague making his escape once again. No idea what has happened to Pearl. Gold goes after Teague leaving Lynch with a restrained Quaid. Teague contacts Renner and tells him to come and pick him up. Renner gathers together the goons, Gunnar (Joe Egan) and Price (Greg Burridge) who Gold left alive. Gold catches up with Teague. They fight and reminisce between punches. Lynch leaves Quaid to go after Gold. Quaid promptly escapes her, frankly, pathetic bonds. 

Lynch stops Gold killing Teague. Quaid encounters Frost and the rest of the backup team. They want to arrest her. She flash smoke bombs them and goes back into the warehouse. Gold and Lynch head with Teague towards the airstrip. 

Frost and the team go int to the warehouse to try and retrieve Quaid. It does not go well. After smacking up one soldier, she puts a sleep hold on Shapiro and steals his clothing. Using a gas mask as a disguise – brilliant! – she leaves the warehouse and steals one of the team vehicles. 

Gold, Lynch and Teague find a car and Lynch hot wires it. Yes she does. Renner, sitting in a parked car with the goons and Pearl, who has magically reappeared, tells Price to take the next left. I always thought that was a command you gave whilst the car was in motion, but what do I know? 

As Gold, Lynch and Teague potter along, Price crashes into them. The car ends up on its roof. Teague, once again, is unaffected by the impact to the vehicle he is in and easily extricates himself from the car. Lynch and Gold struggle, trapped in the flipped car. Gold calls after Teague as Pearl helpfully tells Teague to hurry up because they have to leave. 

Lynch and Gold stop messing about and get out of the car. Renner takes a gun off of Price and goes to kill them. His aim remains as awful as ever. Teague tells him to go and kill them. It’s as though Renner was not trying to kill them before. T-800 Quaid arrives on a motorbike – maybe she’s a T-1000 hence the motorbike appearing from nowhere. She starts shooting. Badly. 

As they are both terrible shots, Renner and Quaid decide to go old fashioned and fight sans firearms. Renner is, again, a big fella and not much of a gentleman. Quaid, who is uncommonly stubborn and did not learn anything from fighting Gold, takes a beating and has to be rescued by Gold. 

Teague leaves a perfectly good motor vehicle and all of his henchmen and girlfriend and tries to run, on foot. Gold grabs Quaid’s motorbike and catches up to Teague. He calls Lynch, who has been picked up by Frost and the rest of the backup team, and tells her that he is taking Teague to the airstrip. 

Renner, Gunnar and Price get back into the car with Pearl. Quaid has disappeared. She probably is a T-100. Gold gets to the airstrip with Teague but is caught by Gunnar, Renner, Price and Pearl. As Teague is about to execute Gold, Quaid appears and distracts them by blowing up the plane they were planning on escaping in. Teague runs off with Pearl and his goons scatter. Another gunfight. Everyone remains a terrible shot. 

Outside, Frost has arrived with Lynch, Shapiro and the rest of the team. He tells Stiles (Jennifer Lee Moon) to take point. She must have pissed off the director because she is about the only person who gets killed by a bullet shot from more than a foot away, quickly being dispatched by Price, who scurries into the aircraft hangar. 

Frost and the rest do not even try to find cover, confident that no one in the film can be on target twice. In the hangar, Gold and Quaid are running low on ammunition and Teague’s goons converge on them. Frost and the team burst in shooting. Quaid gets in a fistfight with Teague and is nearly killed again but Gold saves her. There’s definitely a pattern there…

Shapiro and Frost fight Gunnar. Shapiro breaks his neck. Teague and Gold fight. Price fights Kelso (Jean-Paul Ly). Renner faces off against both Lynch and Quaid. Kelso hands out a whooping to Price. The ladies take down Renner. Gold and Teague continue to fight but Gold overpowers him. He gives Quaid the opportunity of killing him but she does not take it. 

Pearl tries to escape and is caught by Kelso and Shapiro. Teague gets arrested and warns Gold that it’s not over – wahoo! Another sequel! – Quaid tells Gold she might change her mind and kill Teague at a later date. Frost tells Gold he is a free man, even though he was not incarcerated. The end. 

Final thoughts: Even though I Am Vengeance: Retaliation is badly written and the acting is wooden in the extreme, it is an enjoyable action romp and a brilliant stunt person showcase. Written and directed by Ross Boyask, I Am Vengeance: Retaliation is so much hokum. It is well lensed and edited – Boyask is also on editing duty – and blazes through its eighty-two minutes runtime. 

This film is laugh-out-loud for the wrong reasons, mostly the very bad script and Leslie Nielsen-esque shootout scenes. The use of the warehouse/hangar set, though inspired, gets repetitive and slows down the story.

Jones’ Teague seems to spend most of the film running in circles or playing ‘chase me’. With such an underwritten story it was a good thing that the fight scenes worked so well. As I mentioned earlier, it is obvious watching the film that the majority of the performers are martial artists or stunt people. A quick peruse of their IMDB pages confirms this.

Only Durden’s Quaid is moderately well served in the film, with her character actually having some true motivation to go after Teague. Everyone else seems to do it because that’s the job. Kalu’s Renner is entertaining and, given the minimal amount she was required to do, Stafford’s Pearl is not bad. 

Though it is Bennett’s film, the star of the film is Durden. She is easily the best thing in the film and in all of the best fight scenes. Admittedly, with Jones’ playing the primary antagonist, Bennett’s fight scenes could not be as well-choreographed as Durden’s, which were mostly with other stunt performers. 

If you enjoy good fight scenes and don’t mind bad acting, you might enjoy I Am Vengeance: Retaliation. It is a poor man’s Jack Reacher, made on a fraction of the budget of the Cruise starrer but it is not the worst way to waste eighty-two minutes. 

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