Seeking justice for the ill-fated destiny of the people they strongly care about is a strong motivating factor for anyone, especially a former soldier. That’s certainly the case for former WWE wrestler-turned-actor, Stu Bennett‘s determined protagonist in his new action movie, ‘I Am Vengeance: Retaliation.’ The performer’s dark and gritty character is determined to take any means necessary to gain retribution for the crimes committed against the people he cares about, no matter how difficult the process may become.
Bennett reprises his role of ex-British Special Forces soldier, John Gold in ‘I Am Vengeance: Retaliation,’ which serves as the sequel to the 2018 drama, ‘I Am Vengeance.’ The follow-up reunites Bennett with the original film’s writer-director, Ross Boyask. Gold’s latest act of retribution is now available to be witnessed, as the series’ second installment is currently playing On Digital and On Demand, courtesy of Saban Films and Lionsgate.
‘I Am Vengeance: Retaliation’ follows Gold as he’s recruited by his former boss, Frost (Mark Griffin), to lead a small commando unit on a mission to capture his one-time comrade-in-arms, Sean Teague (Vinnie Jones), and bring him to justice. While Gold is now known for working on his own, in part because Teague betrayed their team on their final mission in Eastern Europe several years ago, he agrees to bring his latest adversary to justice.
Working with several less-experienced and unqualified mercenaries, including Lynch (Phoebe Robinson-Galvin) and Shapiro (Sam Benjamin), Gold finds a way to overcome his desire to immediately kill Teague, and instead bring his enemy to justice, and spend the rest of his life in prison. While Gold and his team are faced with obstacles along the way, including Teague’s loyal bodyguards, and fellow mercenary Jen Quaid (Katrina Durden), who’s eager to settle her own score with Teague, Gold will stop at nothing to complete his mission
Bennett generously took the time recently to talk about starring in ‘I Am Vengeance: Retaliation’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the actor discussed how the sequel was able to be made because its predecessor did well enough financially to warrant a follow-up story, which led Boyask to pen another sequel for his company, and the movie’s UK distributor, Evolutionary Films. He also mentioned that he enjoyed his experience collaborating with both the filmmaker and his co-stars, particularly Jones, to develop the characters’ relationships, as well as the fight sequences, throughout the development of the drama.
The conversation with Bennett began with the performer explaining why he was interested in returning to the series, and playing Gold again in ‘I Am Vengeance: Retaliation.’ “Well, ‘I Am Vengeance’ came out in 2018, and it did really well back then, it terms of the budget, and the amount of money we made. So I knew there was a fan base there that enjoyed it,” he noted.
“I really enjoyed working with (producers) John Adams and Diane Shorthouse, who are in charge of Evolutionary Films, and Ross Boyask is the (Creative) Director there. When they all approached me again and said, ‘The first one did well, so we have a script for a sequel, and we want to work with you again,’ I was thrilled,” Bennett also shared.
“When I read the script, I realized as an actor that it would give me an opportunity to try some new things with the character that I didn’t do with the first (film). So it was a really easy decision” to return to the franchise, the performer added. “So I was really excited about it.”
Not only did Bennett appreciate being given the opportunity to reprise his role of Gold in the follow-up, he also cherished the chance to collaborate with Boyask again, as both the writer and director. The actor then further delved into what the experience of reuniting with the filmmaker on the series’ second installment was like overall.
“Ross is great to work with. I knew he had a great creativity, and was a good director from the first time I worked with him. We’re now very good friends, and I speak with him regularly,” Bennett shared.
“I was fortunate that I began working with him after I left the WWE (in 2016), because he’s fantastic as a director,” the performer further shared. “We have a good relationship, to the point where we have a very non-judgmental way of bouncing ideas off of each other.
“For example, if there’s something in my performance that he doesn’t like, he’s confident in telling me, ‘No, you need to do it this way. Or how about trying it this way?’ Or if there’s something in the script that isn’t working for me, whether with the storyline or the character, he’s very open to my ideas and perspective…I really think that helped the creativity blossom,” Bennett added.
Besides working with Boyask, the actor also enjoyed his experience collaborating with Jones to develop their characters’ tense relationship throughout ‘I Am Vengeance: Retaliation.'”The whole cast is really cool, but Vinnie is so experienced in the world of film, and he’s worked with the best actors and directors. So getting him on set was great, and we used him regularly as a sounding board for ideas, and he would always volunteer his opinions on the way things were filmed, and the way the script was written,” Bennett revealed. “So having him on set was fantastic, especially since I was already a fan of his movie career.
“There were other people in the cast who were great, too. I have a fight scene with Katrina Durden, who plays Jen Quaid, and she was fantastic. She’s a great actress and athlete,” the performer divulged. “So working with people like that, as well as Sam Benjamin and Phoebe Robinson-Galvin, was amazing. They had a great connection, and are the comic relief. Getting Mark Griffin back from the first film was also great; it was nice to see his familiar face.
“So there were a lot of great actors who I got the chance to work with again, and we had a good sense of camaraderie on set. So it was a fun few weeks of filming,” Bennett added.
Further discussing the process of creating camaraderie between Gold and his teammates in the follow-up, as well as creating a more humane element to his character, the actor mentioned that Gold “is a one-man killing machine in the first film, who was going out to kill the bad guys. So it was very difficult to bring a lot of character out of him; he almost had to be this robotic man on a mission.
“So what I was really excited about on this film is that we get to see John Gold on a journey of self-discovery. In the beginning of this film, he goes in being the same guy from the first film, and was a lone wolf. He’s then forced to work with a team, and he’s initially very hesitant to do so, as he sees (everyone else) as potential weaknesses at first,” Bennett shared.
“But as time goes on, they go through these live-or-death experiences together, and he learns to bond with them, which brings out a human side of him. So I was excited as an actor to follow that journey with him, and that was a cool experience for me,” the performer also revealed.
The process of collaborating together to create the action sequences for the movie was also something that Bennett valued during the shoot. “The difference between this film and the first one is that I have a team of good guys working with me, which took the pressure off of me a little, in terms of the fight scenes. In the first film, every fight scene was me against the bad guys. But in this (film), because I have a team, that took a bit of the pressure off of me,” he noted.
“I think I had six fight scenes in this film, and most of them were with Vinnie, as he’s the number one villain,” Bennett revealed. “The rest of the cast took up the rest of the slack there, and pulled off fantastic fight scenes, especially Katrina Durden and Phoebe Robinson-Galvin. I know Ross was very much adamant that he wanted to feature females in an empowered way, as opposed to the traditional damsel in distress; I think the Ronda Rousey-type character was what he was looking for, which they really delivered.
“I think the interesting part of that is these different people with different skill sets created totally different fight scenes. While I would use my size and strength to win a fight, Katrina, for example, would use her own technique of ninja-like skills and leaping ability,” the actor explained. “So we had a good mix of styles of fight scenes. Someone told me there’s over 15 fights in the film, so we had to keep each one fresh and different, in order to keep the audience engaged.”
The sequel was able to include so many elaborate action sequences in part because the majority of the feature was shot on the property of an abandoned warehouse. Bennett then divulged what the experience was like of filming the sequel on location. “It was almost entirely filmed on a disused air force base from the Second World War. It was where a lot of the U.S. aircraft was held during the fight against the Nazis. It’s now disused, but a lot of the planes were dumped on the runways and aircraft carriers. So it offered us this complete quietness.” he revealed.
“It has all of these old buildings and gritty locations, which worked out perfectly for the kind of battle scenes we were involved in that are in the back alleys. It was a really cool location,” the actor continued. “I know that John Adams, who was the boss in charge of Evolutionary Films, has ties to the military, and is an ex-military guy himself. I don’t know if he called in any favors, but I felt very lucky that we were able to use that location for the four weeks that we were filming. It was the perfect spot for us.”
Bennett then shared his appreciation that the follow-up received its Digital and On Demand distribution, which he feels is beneficial for an independent action film like this one. “The original plan was that we were going to have a theatrical release, like we had with the first one. But obviously, during this time of COVID-19, and theaters being shut down, that wasn’t going to be possible,” he pointed out. “I believe that the original plan was to have a much bigger release of the film, certainly in the UK, in cinemas. So it’s slightly disappointing that we didn’t get that chance, but it’s certainly safer to go this digital route.”
The performer added that he’s “excited that people are getting the opportunity to see it digitally, via whatever streaming platform they use, in this day and age, where we’re all socially distancing. It’s (now) available via all VOD platforms in the U.S., and will be released in the UK on July 13, and the rest of the world thereafter. It’s great that it’s so easy to watch films digitally these days. So anyone who’s interested in seeing what Vinnie Jones versus Stu Bennett looks like can find it quite easily.”
Bennett also shared his contentment that Gold’s arc in the sequel leaves the ‘I Am Vengeance’ franchise open for future installments. “There’s so many different ways we can go with this franchise. I think we’ve alluded in the two films so far to a lot of things in John Gold’s past, so we can certainly explore that in prequels.
“There’s also more ways that we can move forward, now that he’s back in more of a human mode than he was in the first film. So there’s plenty of ways that this series can go, and we can send him on different journeys now.” The performer added that he’s excited about the endless prospects. “Ross is a very creative guy, and I believe he already has two separate scripts completely written for future films in this franchise. So fingers crossed that this one is as successful as the first one, as that will make it a lot easier for us to get funding and backing for future ‘I Am Vengeance’ films in the franchise. I’m very excited about the future of this franchise, for sure.