Tom Berenger stars in BLOOD AND MONEY as Jim Reed, a retired marine on a hunting trip in the way back part of Maine known as the Allagash. He owns a camper truck that he had all decked out for himself. He has a week to bag a buck and he is running out of time.
It’s a solitary existence that he doesn’t seem to mind. His social contacts are limited to park rangers and a few people in a small town, one of which is a waitress named Debbie (Kristen Hager) at the local diner. She waxes philosophical about wanting to leave with her children but can’t because of her abusive husband. Jim listens because she reminds him of his dead daughter.
The big news around the hamlet concerns a casino robbery in which several people were killed, but the thugs got away. Jim pays no attention as his only concern is shooting a deer. But that afternoon out in the woods will change his life --- and the lives of many others.
BLOOD AND MONEY is the directorial debut for cinematographer John Barr, who also wrote the screenplay. And one of my biggest pet peeves is the writing, most notably when it is poor. The actual dialogue between the characters isn’t the issue. Jim and Debbie have a couple of ordinary, believable chats. It’s the plotline and its execution that proves to be BLOOD AND MONEY’s downfall.
Berenger is capable enough to handle this starring role. Seeing him is like meeting an old friend --- he’s been around a long time. But Barr doesn’t help his cause when he puts an out-of-shape Berenger into a few ludicrous situations. Trying to have him outrun a band of deadly criminals with high-powered rifles doesn’t seem at all plausible --- and that’s only one example.
The Allagash provides a beautiful, scenic backdrop for this crime thriller. Unfortunately, the “thriller” part is totally predictable and it’s not at all difficult to figure out how all of this is going to end. There is one last twist in the final second that plays well, but too little too late. BLOOD AND MONEY is an okay diversion --- that’s about it.
Opinion: Wait for VOD
What could have been a very taut thriller is marred by a couple of major writing flaws. When the protagonist of a film is clearly hampered physically in terms of simply getting around, it’s a real stretch when heavily armed villains can’t seem to catch up with him while on foot during a potentially deadly chase.
Nevertheless, BLOOD AND MONEY, a film with minimal dialogue starring Tom Berenger, has its moments. First-time writer/director John Barr has extensive experience as a cinematographer, and it shows in this debut movie. While Jim Reed (Berenger) is hunting deer in northern Maine in the winter, he fires his high-powered rifle at what the thinks is his four-legged quarry. Barr’s camera adroitly captures all the action, here and for the remainder of the story.
This fatal error --- not necessarily his fault --- catapults Reed into a frequently suspenseful conflict with four casino robbers who will stop at nothing to find a duffle bag filled with their haul of more than a million dollars. Reed comes into possession of said bag of loot, so --- in a touch of irony --- he becomes the hunted. His confrontation with the ringleader is especially tense with all the requisite dialogue between the two men.
Berenger is an old pro who relies on his facial expressions and occasional grunts and groans to keep the audience engaged. Kristen Hager is effective as Debbie, a pretty waitress in a local café with whom the much-older Reed has a friendship. The interaction between these two characters is believable, but the nature of their relationship is not quite clear until the finale.
Although his debut does not quite hit the mark, Barr’s BLOOD AND MONEY has all the earmarks of a talented director. And the film does close with a well-designed ending that will have viewers exclaiming aloud at the screen, “Oh no!” --- but only for a few seconds.
Opinion: Wait for VOD