The general rule of thumb when you hear about a movie having a heavy metal soundtrack is that the music can be expected to take a massive back seat to everything else happening around it.
There have been only a few exceptions to the rule – Judgement Night and The Crow spring instantly to mind – but that mold was smashed completely last year with the release of The Retaliators, a Better Noise Film which is an offshoot of the famed Better Noise Music label.
When the announcement was made that the horror/action/thriller was to boast a soundtrack including The Hu, Asking Alexandria, Five Finger Death Punch, Eva Under Fire, Papa Roach, Nikki Sixx and more, music lovers around the world took notice, buoyed by the promise that songs from these artists would not only punctuate important moments in the movie’s storyline, but also be inserted so as to actually enhance the scenes rather than act as a token gesture.
That promise/hope was intensified when the movie started doing the promotional rounds, including actual movie acting appearances by several of the bands and artists featured on the soundtrack.
Tommy Lee (Mötley Crue), Ivan Moody (Five Finger Death Punch), and Jacoby Shaddix (Papa Roach) were among the names listed, with Shaddix slated to play the role of one of the movie’s central characters.
Suddenly metal lovers had a movie that encapsulated everything they love about music and movies, a film where our ilk were treated with respect and necessity rather than a lazy grab at a niche corner of the market.
The Retaliators delivered everything it promised and more, with an engrossing storyline, great music and enough gore, horror and action to satiate even the most discerning of viewers.
With The Retaliators finally being made available to On Demand services Apple TV and Google TV in Australia and New Zealand late last week, HEAVY felt it appropriate to track down star/co-producer and co-director Michael Lombardi to pick his brain about the movie and the role our beloved heavy metal plays in it. We start by asking what warning label should be placed on The Retaliators for first time viewers.
“Oh man, there’s a few warning labels,” he measured. “It’s not about bad words. It’s not about nudity. It’s just about… I think this movie is really twisted, and it gets dark, but then it also doesn’t take itself too seriously at times, right? I guess I would hope that there’s truth in the film, and it poses a question – as wild as the film gets – and the topic matter will make you think a little, and maybe you can go out for a drink afterward and talk about it a little. On top of that hopefully just being entertained.”
We press Lombardi on what that question is.
“The movie poses a question of what would you do if you had a minute alone with the person who hurt your loved one,” he explained. “Bottom line is, it happens in this case to a small-town guy who is loved by his community. A man of the cloth and someone you never would expect to have that retaliation in him, but I think we all do as human beings and that’s the interesting thing. You put a guy like that in those circumstances and what can happen? He goes on a hell of a journey and from the beginning to the end he completely transforms. There’s a bunch of mayhem and craziness on the way to that, but I think what’s interesting about it is you can say if someone hurt your child or your niece or your nephew, and you had that minute alone with them, can you take revenge on that person. You know, I think it’s easy to wanna say yes if they did something really brutal to you, but then there’s the side if you’re sitting in a room across from another human being could you really draw blood on that person, or hurt that person. I think it goes there. It’s a sensitive subject matter. Even though this movie is hopefully entertaining and kind of twisted there is that underlying message that hopefully allows you to put yourself in that situation.”
Which demands the question of what would he do after being able to digest the movie for a couple of years.
“You know, so I have two boys and it certainly helps if you have a child,” he deliberated. “But again, even if you don’t, people can relate to that with their pets or a niece or nephew. I’ve been asked this before, and it was the first run of the film which was a while ago, and I haven’t talked about the movie a tonne recently which is why this is so beautiful to have a different perspective on it… You know, man, it’s interesting because life is tricky, and life is tough. We’re all dealing with a lot at all times. I think at certain times of my life I can answer that question and say yes (laughs). This is crazy, I’m being pretty honest here because it’s a crazy answer. The answer could be brutal, but I think depending on where you’re at in your life – again not with your frustrations or your struggles, but your happiness, your ups and downs – when you’re down and certain things happen to you, you might really be in a situation where I don’t like people, maybe, so if someone hurt my kid yeah I wanna answer yes. I would be able to do that, but there are other times where I was like, I don’t know, man, but for me… (pauses)… yeah, I think I could.”
In the full interview, Michael talks more about the storyline of The Retaliators, how the effects of playing such a role have stayed with him, putting himself in the character of John Bishop, their goal of turning it into more than just another horror movie with a metal soundtrack, working with Better Noise Films, how he landed the role, using musicians in acting roles and how important that was to the finished result, how they worked each song into the movie to make it relevant to the scene and part of the movie, the possibility of a sequel and more.
The Retaliators Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is available now on digipak CD, cassette and as a limited collector’s edition 180-gram red and black splatter vinyl housed in a gatefold sleeve packed with exclusive merch items at https://theretaliators.ffm.to/retaliatorssoundtrack.