Being the target of a horrific crime is a devastating experience for not only young victims who can’t defend themselves, but also their loved ones, who will do whatever it takes to ensure justice is served for them. The new horror thriller, The Retaliators, serves as a powerful underground revenge service for the family members of those innocent crime victims, especially the ones who are unable to obtain that justice for themselves.
The film stars Michael Lombardi as a small town pastor who’s driven to forgo his Christian values to some degree in order to secure the justice he seeks during the investigation into the brutal murder of his older daughter. The drama was directed by Bridget Smith and Samuel Gonzalez Jr., and written by The Geare Brothers.
The Retaliators follows the upstanding pastor, John Bishop, who chooses to see the good in every person he encounters, no matter what his interaction with them is like. However, his life is forever changed when his older daughter, high school student Sarah (Katie Kelly), is brutally murdered after she inadvertently witnesses a crime being committed.
With the police having little evidence to find and arrest the suspect, John decides to track down man responsible for his daughter’s death. Along the way, he uncovers a dark and twisted underworld that puts his own life in danger, but he refuses to give up hope until he secures vengeance on the man who ruined his family’s lives.
The movie features several rock musicians in supporting roles and cameo appearances, including Tommy Lee and Cory Marks, as well as members from such bands as Five Finger Death Punch, Papa Roach, The Hu, Ice Nine Kills, Escape The Fate and All Good Things. The thriller’s soundtrack, which is being released this Friday, September 16 via Better Noise Music, also features some of the biggest names in rock music.
Lombardi generously took the time recently to talk about starring in and producing The Retaliators during an exclusive interview. Better Noise Films is distributing the drama in theaters today, Wednesday, September 14.
Q: You play John in the new horror thriller, The Retaliators. What was it about your character, as well as the overall script, which was written by The Geare Brothers, Darren and Jeff, that convinced you to take on your role?
ML: In the early-mid 2000s, I had a rock band, and we had a record deal at the time. My music manager used to say, “Hey, you have to go write with these amazing brothers. They live down in Southern California.”
I was out in L.A. for awhile, but I’m an East Coast guy; I’ve mostly been in New York. But I was out in L.A. at that time. So he said, “You have to go write with these amazing brothers. They’re amazing songwriters.” They themselves had a band and a record deal, so we used to go write music together.
Those brothers are The Geare Brothers, and they’re the writers of The Retaliators. We really hit it off creatively at that time. Our tastes were so aligned, and we really had a lot of success and fun writing together. Then many years had passed, and I hadn’t really spoken to them, with me being in New York, and them being in L.A.
I was then on the set of another film, and I was going to perform music at a charity event. There was a song that we had written together that I was going to perform called When Heaven and Hell Collide.
I wanted to drop it a half-step, as I wasn’t with my band, so I was going to work on it. So I called Darren and said, “Hey man, what have you been up to? I’m doing this charity event and want to perform this song we wrote together and drop it a half-step.” He said, “Oh, my brother and I have been writing screenplays.” So I said, “Darren, send them all to me,” because I think these guys are so talented.
So he sent me all their screenplays, and one of them was The Retaliators. I just fell in love with it after I read it. I also had a relationship with Allen Kovac, the CEO and founder of Better Noise Music. He said, “Michael, I want to do something with you. I want to do a movie with you.” He had produced The Dirt and many other films.
So I brought him The Retaliaors because the script just screamed music to me. There are so many things about it that wink at the films of the ’80s and ’90s that have shaped and inspired me, as well as Darren and his brother, Jeffrey, who are the writers, like The Lost Boys and The Crow. All of these movies have such great soundtracks.So Allen was like, “Let’s do this,” and we jumped right in.
Q: Speaking of the music, the film features a rock score that includes music from such bands as Papa Roach and Tommy Lee. What was the process like of deciding which songs to include in the drama?
ML: I think it’s a difficult task to say, “Hey, here are eight musicians. Let’s give them cameos in the movie, but let’s still make it a good movie.”
That’s something that Allen and I spoke a lot about during the production. We didn’t want to make these parts too gratuitous; we instead wanted them to fit and work. Jacoby Shaddix from Papa Roach is so good in the movie that if you’re not a fan of the band, you’d just think he was an actor. That was the goal across the board.
I think the guy who really stands out, and his performance is great, is Tommy Lee. But you do think, oh, that’s Tommy Lee, of course. For the music, Allen and I hand-picked the songs. He knew what songs he wanted in the movie from each band. We put them in scenes that supported the actors and the objective of the scene.
I think the songs helped enhance the performances. Some of those moments are so strong that I wanted to be very careful with the songs not taking away from what we were doing, and instead, of course, make it better.
At the end of the production, while we were placing all the music, we were able to get the Stranger Things guys, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein, to score the film, in a wink to the ’80s, like I mentioned earlier. So I’m really proud of what it delivers – it’s entertaining.
Metal and rock make you wonder, hey, what’s around that corner? I think this movie also kind of does that. It’s a symbiotic thing, and I hope – and think – that one doesn’t take away from the other.
Q: Also speaking the rest of the actors, The Retaliators also stars Marc Menchaca and Joseph Gatt. What was your experience like of collaborating with your co-stars throughout the production on the movie?
ML: I can’t say enough about Marc Menchaca; he’s great. We went to the same acting school, the William Esper Studio, in New York. A lot of my favorite actors have gone to the school. Its teaches the importance of being real and grounded, as well as doing a lot of preparation, but then letting it roll and having fun in the scene.
[Marc] really knows his craft so well, and I think he was so right for the part [of Jed]. He has so much gravitas, and he’s very interesting. His voice is also interesting, so I couldn’t think of a better guy [to play Jed] when we cast him.
I couldn’t be happier with his work in, and working with him on, the film. We had so much fun in our scenes together. Even though this film is a horror thriller, it’s on the high-brow side. It’s story-driven and a slow burn, so there’s a lot of stuff between he and I.
I think Joseph Gatt, who plays the bad guy, was also great in his role [of Ram Kady]. Given that the film has that wink to the ’80s, we wanted to create a Terminator-type bad guy, who’s as cold as ice. [Joseph’s] so big and scary, he just has to show up to be imposing.
He beats me up in a lot of scenes, and he’s an amazing stunt guy. Stunts are about selling, and he’s so big and good at them that we had a lot of fun doing them together. I was really happy with the whole cast; everyone brought it, as did the musicians.
Q: Speaking of the stunts, the thriller follows John as he searches for answers surrounding his daughter’s brutal murder. What was the experience like for you to create the physicality and stuntwork during your portrayal of John?
ML: I worked with my stunt guy, Norman Douglas, on the movie. I was on the television series, Rescue Me, for about 100 episodes, and Norman was a stunt guy on the show.
So I called him up because I couldn’t think of anyone better, and we choreographed everything. We spent a lot of time working on it before we went to shoot. But for him, it’s not that much, in terms of stunts, because he’s so good.
It was a lot of fun, and I did about 95 percent of my own stunts, which was great. Both Joe and I are very physical actors, so working with him on that aspect of the film was very fun.
Q: The Retaliators was directed by Bridget Smith and Samuel Gonzalez, Jr. What were your experiences like collaborating with Bridget and Samuel throughout the production?
ML: Collaborating with them was so great. Bridget Smith is so wonderful, and she creates such a wonderful, fun atmosphere on set. She makes her actors feel really safe.
Acting is about needing to feel safe, so you need to trust the director so that you can just jump off that cliff. She really provided that on set. She directed a lot of the scenes between Marc and I.
Then you also have Samuel Gonzalez, who’s really super hyper-stylized. If you’re drinking a glass of water, he’ll shoot up that glass into your eye, where you’ll see a silhouette of a machete or something. [Lombardi laughs.] Being that stylized was really important on this film.
Then I also directed a lot of scenes on the film, too, because of COVID. So the three of us did a lot of the directorial work together, but watching the two of them bring all of the elements together was amazing.
Also, choosing Randy Bricker as our editor was the right call. He goes way back; he was an apprentice on the film, The Firm with Tom Cruise.
Randy also has an extensive horror background, as he then did I Am Legend. He also did the Halloween franchise, and is also currently working on the Chucky television series.
So him and I talking in the editing room, and bringing all of this collaboration together, was very important. The film was in his hands then, and he did a phenomenal job on it.
Here’s the trailer of the film.