Star of THE RETALIATORS Film Talks Working With FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH, TOMMY LEE, JACOBY SHADDIX
September 14, 2022, a year ago
A horror film with actual – gasp! – good acting? And a storyline that is both thought-provoking and hasn’t been done-to-death? The Retaliators is one of those few horror flicks that can potentially appeal to both fans of the genre and to those who can appreciate a story that pulls you in and holds your attention until the very end.
Centered around the premise of ‘If you had a minute alone with the person who killed your loved one, would you take it?’, the film will also appeal to metalheads, as it features cameo appearances by members of Five Finger Death Punch (Ivan Moody, Zoltan Bathory, and Chris Kael), Papa Roach (Jacoby Shaddix), and Mötley Crüe (Tommy Lee), among others.
The star of the film, Michael Lombardi (who is best known for his recurring role as firefighter Mike Silletti in the TV show Rescue Me) spoke with BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato just a few days before The Retaliators hit US theaters on September 14, 2022, and discussed the film, working alongside members of the metal community, and if there are plans for a sequel.
BraveWords: How did you first get involved with the film?
Michael Lombardi: “Back in the early to mid-2000’s, I had a band [Apache Stone] and we had a record deal at the time. I’m an east coast guy – I’ve always been in New York – but I was going back and forth to LA often. I was on a TV show at the time, and doing the acting thing in LA. And my music manager at the time used to say to me, ‘You have to go write music with these brothers. They’re amazingly talented guys. They’re wonderful songwriters. They’re called the Geare brothers.’ So I used to drive an hour and a half from LA to Southern California, and write music with them. And we really were just so collaborative and creatively aligned. It was such a wonderful, in synch, collaborative experience. We had the same inspirations, we were just really on the same page, and in step with what our influences were. Cut to I’m back on the east coast and several years had passed and I haven’t spoken to them. I was doing a charity event in the community, so I gave Darren Geare a call, and said, ‘Hey buddy, I’m going to sing one of the songs we wrote together at the charity event [a song called ‘When Heaven and Hell Collide’]. Hey, what have you been up to?’ He says, ‘My brother and I have been writing screenplays over the last several years.’ And I said, ‘Send them to me. Immediately.’ Because I knew their writing was going to be great. And one of them was The Retaliators. I fell in love with it. I thought, ‘I’ve got to make this movie.’ So get this – I do this charity event, I play the song. And there were other people performing at the event. Afterward, we all go to dinner, and a man named Allen Kovac was there, and he was at the charity event. And Allen and I really hit it off. He’s a manager, and he liked the vibe of the music. He says to me, ‘We have to do something together some day.’ He produced the movie The Dirt by Mötley Crüe. And then…The Retaliators. What’s crazy about that is the song that I reconnected with Darren about is how I connected with a guy who was at the event, who was the main guy behind the movie, who took on the film.”
BraveWords: Let’s discuss Allen Kovac and his involvement.
Michael Lombardi: “He is the CEO of a company called Better Noise Music, and they represent over 40 bands. And back in the day, Allen had Meat Loaf and the Bee Gees. And now, he has Mötley Crüe, Five Finger Death Punch, Ice Nine Kills, Papa Roach – he’s a major music manager. So, once you get back to the script, when I said to the Geare brothers, ‘Send me what you’ve been doing,’ what I loved about the script was several things. One of them was the sort of Joe Dante-esque, Gremlins-y, Spielberg-ian beginning – in a small town. I love that it goes into this long, slow-burn story. Character-based. Acting-based. That’s what attracted me – the story. Then, I felt the elements of Sin City and this sort of graphic novel feeling to it. Of course, a total wink at the ‘80s. Another thing was the music – it jumped off the page to me. It just felt like it had that soundtrack-y feel – like Lost Boys or The Crow. And then it had elements of almost like a western. I saw elements of that. And then sort of into a Tarantino-ish, crazy third act – with a nod to Evil Dead. I called Darren, and I flipped out on him. All those things that resonated with me when I read it were exactly what they were thinking when they wrote it. So I jumped on a plane, and I was in LA three days later. I’m like, ‘I’ve got to make this movie.’ I brought it to Allen. He read the script, he understood, he loved the story, he knew the music element would work with his bands and their music.
“He had a full plan in place from day one with it. He said, ‘Let’s make this.’ That was about three years ago now. We wanted the movie to be appreciated by people of the genre, and maybe a little outside of it, too, because of the story – the questions that it may raise. But when we put the music in, Allen has all this access to all these incredible musicians. They’re his. That’s his team. So he said, ‘Michael, call Jacoby Shaddix, call Ivan Moody from Five Finger Death Punch, call Spencer Charnas from Ice Nine Kills. Talk to them about their parts – where we want to place them in the movie. Let’s make it a movie first, but have this wonderful built-in core audience, but let’s open up a new audience to the musicians.’ For instance, if you were watching the film and you didn’t know Papa Roach, you’d think Jacoby Shaddix was just an actor in the movie playing a bad guy. And then with Five Finger Death Punch, they’re the motorcycle gang. They’re these big, burly, tattooed guys with dreads. But they’re Five Finger Death Punch! So, it was really important to do it in a non-gratuitous manner, and make it a film but had this unbelievable soundtrack and cameo element. To me and Allen, it was about making a good movie first.”
BraveWords: How was it working with Tommy Lee, Jacoby, and all the other musicians who appear in the film?
Michael Lombardi: “Absolutely incredible. First of all, because they are who they are – they’ve been around. But I’ve got to tell you, at their core, these guys are storytellers. They’re artists. They’re pros. So they came to work. They obviously tell stories through song, and they’re on stage, and in this case, they just needed to dial it down a little bit, sort of put it behind their eyes, have it there, and go. But I phoned them all and spoke with them about their part, and spoke to them about the story. So when they came to set, they all had their scenes beforehand, and they knew where they were going to fit in and what their objectives and points of views were. And they were all fantastic. As a director, you’d much rather work with someone who is willing to jump off that cliff and go there, and sort of pull back and mold that performance if you need to – then go with someone who’s afraid or not accessible. But every one of the musicians were phenomenal. They’d all be in the corner, doing their emotional preparation. They all took it very seriously, too. Very committed. It was a real treat to see. And to work with. We got some great performances from them.”
BraveWords: You touched upon this earlier, but were there any specific horror films that were an influence on The Retiators?
Michael Lombardi: “I think those ones I mentioned were certainly. Of course, you have the Saw element, the Hostile element. But again, this is a story. The thought-provoking and the provocative question here – and to me, at the core of the film – is ‘If you had a minute alone with the person who killed your loved one, would you take it?’ So, it’s a revenge tale, at the end of the day. It’s that primal instinct. But in this case, I think it’s told in an interesting way – because it’s through the man of the cloth, with morals. It’s a fun popcorn movie, with a lot of twists and turns and a good soundtrack, but you hope afterward that it’s something that you can talk about a little bit. You might be able to ponder some of the subject matters of morality or religion or justice.”
BraveWords: Underneath all the gore, is there a lesson to be learned by the film?
Michael Lombardi: “Yeah. To me, it’s like this – you’re watching the movie, and I feel like half the audience is going to be like, ‘Yeah! Get that revenge!’ And the other half may be on the fence with it. If you have a son, daughter, niece, or nephew…and I even remember as a kid thinking, ‘What if someone did something to my parents?’ I remember being afraid of that, and what I’d do. So, we understand that concept. And I did a lot of research, actually – to find that emotion and feeling, and what you’d really want to do and put yourself in that circumstance. But, if the person is right there in front of you – another human being – could you really harm them? Like, could you deal with the blood? Whatever the crazy thing is that you might be able to do with them right in front you – could you really do it? Well, I think what’s interesting is it’s very hard to tell – unless you were in that circumstance. But I think what’s interesting – again – is playing this character, and seeing it from that perspective and that point of view. It was an interesting journey to work on, and the question becomes a little bit deeper and has a little more meaning, and angles and layers to it when you’re playing the guy in that situation.”
BraveWords: Would you like to see The Retaliators turn into a franchise – with sequels?
Michael Lombardi: “It’s been so much fun for me and the Geare brothers to explore this, and when we went back out – because we got shut down with Covid – we would talk about storyboard stuff together. Filming was very difficult because of Covid. But because we had so much fun exploring the characters and talking about it that the Geare brothers have already dove into a sequel with this. They have a whole ‘underworld’ of where this goes. It’s really crazy. The movie’s not for everyone, but what I love is that the movie that I found the script of that I fell in love with and that I brought to Allen is the one that we made. And what’s cool is every movie that is for everyone is probably not going to be my kind of movie. Or it’s going to be in a grey area. So, I hope the people that do get it enjoy it, and that allows us to make another one – because it was a lot of fun.”
BraveWords: Are you a fan of metal music?
Michael Lombardi: “I knew of these bands in the movie, of course. But I’ve become a huge fan – not only because of the people and dealing with the artists, but the music is awesome. And I’ve also produced and directed a bunch of music videos with these guys – because we’ve been doing music videos that cross roads with the film, as a way to promote the movie and the music. So, I’ve been fortunate to write some music videos that cross roads with the film. I might appear in one of them or one of the other actors. I’ve been eating, sleeping, an drinking this music, and then of course, all of the songs Allen wanted in the movie, and he and I picking where they go – I love them. On Monday, I’m going to see Five Finger Death Punch. I can’t wait to see them in their element.”