Formulaic Disaster Only Missing Eric Roberts' Participation For Direct-to-Video Credibility
Mar 12, 2014
Seriously. Hollywood screenwriters have some increasingly macabre fascination with American small towns. If the motion pictures they churn out are any indication, then an intelligent person would have to conclude that every little burg that doesn’t qualify as any resembling “a suburb” is simply rife with criminal activity. That, and what would any little unincorporated village be without the corner strip joint? What town elder wouldn’t be complete without his or her own dark past in either domestic abuse or narcotics trafficking? And let’s not leave out the corner grease monkey! ‘Cause you know there’s one chance out of every three is working as an undercover cop!
Unfortunately, WICKED BLOOD is little more than the usual direct-to-video fare conceived, written, and directed by yet one more charlatan who knows nothing about the American heartland. Hmm. You’d think with so much star power packed into this somebody could’ve come up with something a bit more interesting, no?
(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 …)
Hannah (the always adorable if not downright precocious Abigail Breslin), her sister Amber (a nearly wasted Alexa Vega), and their Uncle Donny (a greasy yet impressive Lew Temple) are the black sheep in a small Southern family that maintains a ruthless control over the local drug trade. Uncle Frank Stinson (Sean Bean) calls the shots, using the family violent nutcase Bobby (Jake Busey in a role definitely best served by any Busey) to keep the local biker gang riffraff in line. When Bill Owens (James Purefoy in his grubbiest role yet) falls in love with Amber, young Hannah concocts a cunning scheme she believes will free her kin from a brutal cycle of violence once and for all.
From that synopsis, you really know everything you need to know about WICKED BLOOD to honestly decide if it’s worth your time. The performances? Meh. I suppose one could say “the gang’s all here,” and, in saying that, I don’t mean the biker gang or a gang of thugs: I mean a veritable cavalcade of stars curiously drawn to some of these smaller projects. Are the performances any good? Well, Breslin is fine, though she lacks the emotional chutzpa to really elevate such lackluster material (thank you very much, writer/director Mark Young) to anything truly memorable. Vega’s? Wasted. Bean’s? Wasted. Purefoy’s? Wasted. (I’m not even sure his character made much sense.) But Temple and Busey did just fine, all things considered.
If my attempt at subtle sarcasm hasn’t been telling enough, then let me be clear: the story by Mark Young is packed to the gills with mostly garbage. None of these people feel authentic, nor do the rise above the level of the Hollywood stereotype (i.e. plucky young girl, cynical older sister, doomed drug maker, wannabe kingpin, etc.). These days, I suspect even a computer program could’ve designed this cookie-cutter plot. My suggestion is that next time someone pay extra for some upgrades, and maybe it’ll produce a script that makes greater sense. Or offers stronger performances. Or has merit.
Still, there’s an interesting little narrative device Mr. Young remembered from his Creative Writing classes (assuming he took any). The picture is framed by the game of chess. It seems Hannah and her Uncle Donny are both small-town geniuses about the game. (Trust me: that’s better than Yahtzee.) So Young recorded Breslin reading some epic poetry about the structure of a chess game – what the rooks do, what the bishops do, what role the pawns play, etc. – and he inserts snippets liberally throughout the film where he firmly believes he’s making a thematic point.
The problem? He isn’t.
All he’s doing is further defining his already established stereotypical characters.
So what audiences endure instead is a young actress reading a poem about a game they probably either (A) don’t care about, (B) aren’t interested in, or (C) would rather be playing than watching this dull movie.
Lose/lose, my friends. And checkmate.
WICKED BLOOD (2014) is produced by Industrial Entertainment, Nazz Productions, Primary Pictures, and Thunder Smoke Media. DVD distribution is being handled by Entertainment One (aka E One Entertainment). As for the technical specifications, this low-budget film has some pretty good quality sights and sounds, but I’ll confess I had to turn on the subtitles for one sequence where Sean Bean felt it necessary to mumble his dialogue (let’s just say he didn’t have a very convincing Louisiana accent, shall we?). Lastly, if it’s special features you want, there are a handful of publicity-based interviews of all the principle actors; they may not be all that revelatory, but they were fine and dandy to watch.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. Look, Hollywood, if you’re listening, we get it: you don’t know two bits about real small-town life. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a small-town melodrama so long as you can serve one up worth watching from start-to-finish. About halfway through, I started using the remote to buzz past some of the quieter moments … of which there are far too many for any flick titled WICKED BLOOD. I mean: how can you fashion a crime thriller with so little crime and practically no thrills? Isn’t there something despicably wrong with that? Despite a bad dye job, Abigail Breslin does what she can to muster some life from this seedy motion picture, but mark my words: she’s no Jennifer Lawrence. Not yet, anyway.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Entertainment One (aka E One Entertainment) provided me with a DVD copy of WICKED BLOOD by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.