May 15, 2020
by Carla Hay
Directed by John Barr
Culture Representation: Taking place in rural Maine, the drama/thriller “Blood and Money” has a predominantly white cast (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class and criminal underworld.
Culture Clash: A retired widower takes a duffel bag full of cash that was stolen during a casino robbery, and the robbers come after him for the money.
Culture Audience: “Blood and Money” will appeal mostly to people who like crime movies with a very basic plot and a predictable ending.
“Blood and Money” has plenty of tension-filled moments, but it takes a while (about two-thirds of the film) to get there. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not a great one either. A solid performance from star Tom Berenger should keep people interested in this mostly dreary story that takes place in a snow-covered setting.
In “Blood and Money” (directed by John Barr), Berenger is retired military veteran Jim Reed, a widowed loner who lives in a remote cabin in rural northern Maine. It’s the kind of heavily wooded area where people can go for miles without seeing anyone else. The different checkpoint stations in the area are sometimes the closest places to get help.
In his free time, Jim likes to hunt deer. But right away, it’s shown that he has some health problems, because he coughs up blood while he’s out hunting. Jim takes medication, but it’s not specified why and for how long he’s had these medical issues.
He’s also suffering from grief and depression, not just for the loss of his wife but also for the death of his adult daughter, who was killed by a drunk driver. Jim brings out a newspaper clipping that covered the news of his daughter’s death. He reads it in a way that indicates that the emotional pain is still very raw and deep.
Occasionally, Jim stops by a local diner, where he has a cordial relationship with a waitress named Debbie Thibault (played by Kristen Hager), who’s in her 30s. They have casual and friendly conversations, including talking about a local casino robbery that happened the day before. The robbery is big news in the area. After having a meal at the diner, Jim sees Debbie crying in the parking lot and being comforted by a co-worker.
The next time that he’s at the diner, Debbie apologizes to Jim for the emotional meltdown that he saw. She tells him that she going through a lot because her daughter is sick. Debbie also expresses disappoint that her own life didn’t turn out the way she expected. A sympathetic Jim tells her that she doesn’t need to apologize. He also confesses to Debbie that she reminds him of his daughter.
A recovering alcoholic, Jim also attends support-group meetings for military veterans at a local American Legion Hall. At one of the meetings, he meets a fellow military veteran named George (played by James LeBlanc), who admits to the group that his alcoholism has led him to take his out his anger on his wife and kids. George doesn’t go into details, but it’s clear that he is still struggling with his personal demons.
Jim strikes up a conversation with George after the meeting. It’s in this conversation that Jim reveals that he has a son who hasn’t spoken to Jim in about a year. (It’s revealed later in the movie why Jim and his son are estranged.) When George’s wife and daughter stop by to pick George up from the meeting, Jim sees that Debbie is George’s wife.
Meanwhile, Jim has been told from a recent visit to a local checkpoint station worked named Bill (played by Paul Ben-Victor) that a checkpoint near Pinkham Road is temporarily closed after the area near the checkpoint went through some torrential rains. Bill also warns Jim, “Just be careful if you go out that way. There’s no way to track you.”
This is the part of the movie where you know that Jim will definitely go “out that way” and will be caught in a dangerous situation. While hunting in this risky area, Jim sees what he thinks is a deer and shoots. When he gets close to the fallen prey, he sees to his horror at that he actually shot a woman (played by Caroline Portu). With blood gushing from her, she makes this ominous threat as her last words before she dies: “You’re a fucking dead man!”
Viewers can see a duffel bag that’s lying near the woman, so it’s very easy to figure out who she is and what she was doing there, given what’s been reported in the local news. However, Jim doesn’t even see the bag lying right next to her, because he’s in a panic. Does he report the shooting, even though it was accidental? No.
For the next 15 minutes, the movie takes its time to get to the real action by having Jim act guilty when he races off to the nearest checkpoint station. But when he gets there, if he had any thoughts of reporting the shooting, he’s changed his mind. The checkpoint worker notices that Jim has blood on his jacket. Jim nervously tells him that he’s been coughing up blood. In order to make a hasty exit, Jim says that he has to leave to take his medication.
Jim relapses by going to a bar and drinking alcohol. While at the bar, he sees a TV news report with a surveillance photo of two of the five suspects in the casino robbery. And, of course, one of the people in the photo is the dead woman in the woods. It’s also in this TV report that Jim finds out that the robbers got away with an estimated $1.2 million.
While at home, Jim wakes up in the middle of a restless sleep when he remembers that he had been smoking when he was out hunting the day earlier, and he accidentally left a cigarette butt near the mystery woman’s body. So he races over to where he left the body, sees the duffel bag full of cash, and he takes it.
Of course, the other four robbers are looking for their missing crony in the woods. And when they find out what happened to her and that all of the robbery money is gone, it’s only a matter of time before they see Jim in the woods with the duffel bag, and they go on a bloody manhunt for him. The rest of the movie shows what happens when Jim tries to outwit and outrun these ruthless criminals.
The “Blood and Money” screenplay (written by Barr, Alan Petherick, Mike McGrale) is often a very by-the-numbers chase movie that feels like it took too long to get to this heart of the story. Although there are some good action sequences, and Barr’s cinematography serves the film very well, Jim makes some questionable choices during the chase that in reality would have accelerated the fate of certain characters in the movie.
Jim is also lucky that the robbers are very disorganized and don’t have a well-thought-out plan to ambush him. And he has the advantage of knowing the remote terrain better than they do. It’s still four against one though, so the odds seem to be stacked against him.
The ending of the movie is entirely predictable, so watching the last third of the film is really just to see who ends up dying or surviving and what happens to the money. As thrillers go, “Blood and Money” isn’t essential viewing, but it’s enough to fill the time for anyone who wants to see a formulaic “shoot ’em up” chase movie that doesn’t have much action until the last half-hour.
Screen Media Films released “Blood and Money” on digital and VOD on May 15, 2020.