As great action films are hard-to-find, even good one – your basic, run-of-the-mill actioner – are growing in scarce supply. It could be because the dynamics of making these types of films almost require that screenwriters pad their scripts with some unnecessary baggage form-fitted for the high salary box office draws like Kevin Costner or Liam Neeson. (This isn’t to say their films are bad; rather, it’s only to remind you that prior to their doing flicks of this variety they were probably no studio executives’ first choice.) Just when you thought the days of the musclebound hero were dead and buried, Gina Carano rises up, signs a few Hollywood contracts, and shows audiences once more what a true action hero used to look like every time we purchased our tickets.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Ava (played by the stunning Gina Carano) and Derek (Cam Gigandet) are newlyweds taking their Honeymoon on some tropical paradise accessible by boat from nearby Puerto Rico. On the island, a young local named Manny (Ismael Cruz Cordova) promises to help them navigate the local hot spots, and they’re only too willing to take him up on the offer. But after a chance accident on a zipline excursion leaves Derek fighting for survival, he mysteriously disappears without a trace from the local hospital. Alone and with the police believing she may have participating in the man’s possible demise, Ava takes to the streets with one simple mission: find her kidnapped husband or die trying.
First off, I’ve waxed on before about my love for hard-boiled literature. (Yes, it IS literature, peeps.) And – to my surprise – so very much of IN THE BLOOD’s characterizations worked on that same level. For example, Carano’s Ava had a curiously secret upbringing, one where she was trained since coming-of-age by a father whose background is more than a bit mysterious. What kind of training? Training to defend herself. Training to get out of tight places. Training to kill, if that be the requirement. Given so much of her youth was spent in some bombed-out ghetto style existence, those were skills she’d come to appreciate.
After leaving those dark days behind, Ava continued to craft a lifestyle shrouded in secrets. It’s clear that her father-in-law (the too-rarely-seen Treat Williams) doesn’t trust her – he even begins to suspect she had ulterior motives in the disappearance of his son – and he drops hints on more than one occasion that things about the woman just don’t add up. While that may not function as character development for the latest Merchant Ivory snorefest, it works perfect for the world of hard-boiled prose, of which I have no doubt screenwriters James Robert Johnston and Bennett Yellin have familiarity. (Johnston’s resume is light but he clearly shows some chops for the rough stuff while Yellin tends to have used his time writing on low-brow comedies.)
This isn’t Shakespeare, and much of what’s needed to pull it off convincingly rests on Carano’s more-than-capable shoulders. Also, there’s a final scene (a goodbye to Manny as Ava leaves the island) that plays out with some high level of smarm uncharacteristic to this type of movie. The tension mounts as she’s surrounded by yet more people who don’t believe her, but all the time one thing remains certain – she’s going to find those responsible and make them pay in either pain or bloodshed … just as dear old dad would’ve wanted her to do.
IN THE BLOOD (2014) is produced by Anchor Bay Films, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Movie Package Company, MICA Entertainment, and a whole host of others (if you’re that die-hard about, then check out the film’s full listing over at IMDB.com). DVD distribution is being handled via Anchor Bay. As for the technical specifications, this smart little flick offers up some very high quality sights and sounds – the cinematography is a bit predictable at time, and I don’t know if I’m working on a receiver failure (or not) but the dialogue by a few characters was a bit muddled. Not too bad, but I thought it worth mentioning. Lastly – if it’s special features you want – then this Blu-ray + DVD combo also sports a Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy as well as a behind-the-scenes short.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Pardon me if I some even remotely sexist, but it’s nice to see some talent of the female persuasion emerging on the scene to bring an all new level of machismo to the action genre. I had the good fortune of watching Zoe Bell beat the stuffing out of folks recently in RAZE on home video, and now I’ve had the same great luck watching the hopelessly photogenic Gina Carano do the same. IN THE BLOOD might not feed my guilty pleasure as solidly as did RAZE, but it sure whet the palate for more from this budding heroine.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Anchor Bay Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of IN THE BLOOD by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.