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‘Retaliation’: Orlando Bloom captivates as a troubled soul with vengeance on his mind

The actor outdoes himself in the gritty redemption drama.

Malky (Orlando Bloom) is enjoying demolishing the church of his boyhood in “Retaliation.”
Saban Films/Lionsgate

If there’s any doubt Orlando Bloom’s Malky is a troubled soul with a cross to bear in the gritty redemption drama “Retaliation,” it’s erased when we see Malky literally bearing a cross — a crucifix from a church that is being demolished.

That’s also the image on the poster for “Retaliation,” which was filmed in 2017 but is just now being released.

Covered in grime and soot, a look of steely determination on his face, Malky has hoisted the crucifix onto his shoulder. He’s a man on a mission — and that mission will lead to him either finally finding a measure of inner peace or going down in an inferno of his own making.

Malcolm, known as Malky to friends and family, is a demolition worker and lapsed Catholic who takes particular relish in his latest gig: tearing down the church he attended as a child. We learn exactly why Malky carries such resentment and anger when he’s at the local pub one night and spots the priest, Father Jimmy (James Smillie), who sexually abused Malky when he was 12. Turns out Father Jimmy has returned to the parish and will be saying Mass at the new church in town.

Though it’s been more than 20 years since the horrific act of abuse, Malky knows that’s the evil man who ruined his life — and Jimmy knows that’s Malky.

Nobody knows about what happened to Malky. He tried to tell his churchgoing, priest-worshiping mother (Anne Reid), whom he lives with and cares for, but she wouldn’t hear of it. He has never spoken a word about it to his best friend Jo (Alex Ferns) or his on-and-off girlfriend Emma, who is in love with Malky but cannot break through the walls he has built around himself.

Janet Montgomery plays Emma, the on-and-off girlfriend who can’t bring herself to abandon Malky.
Saban Films/Lionsgate

Janet Montgomery is heartbreakingly good as Emma, who is smart and caring and wonderful and knows she doesn’t deserve to be treated the way Malky treats her but can’t abandon him even as Malky’s rage explodes and he hurts a loved one and even takes a hammer to his own hand in an effort to feel something, anything — even excruciating pain.

Malky follows Father Jimmy around, looks him in the eye, puts the fear of God in him, and deservedly so. Now,he has to decide: Will he exact his retaliation against this monster or find another path?

It’s been two decades since Bloom became a star thanks to his roles in the “Pirates of Caribbean” and “Lord of the Rings” franchise. His pretty-boy, leading-man looks and tabloid-attracting offscreen romances sometimes got in the way of his career.

But in a small but pivotal role in the recently released “The Outpost” and in a brilliant, brooding, captivating performance here, Bloom has established himself as an intense, physical, screen-dominating presence, with a little bit of Brando or at least Tom Hardy in the way he carries himself. It’s the best work of his career.