Review: ‘Barbarian’ (2022), starring Georgina Campbell, Bill Skarsgård and Justin Long

September 7, 2022

by Carla Hay

Georgina Campbell in “Barbarian” (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

“Barbarian” (2022)

Directed by Zach Cregger

Culture Representation: Taking place in Detroit and briefly in Los Angeles, the horror film “Barbarian” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Murder and mayhem ensue when a woman, who’s in Detroit for a job interview, finds out that her Airbnb-type rental house has been double-booked with a male guest, who is also staying at the house. 

Culture Audience: “Barbarian” will appeal primarily to people interested in watching suspenseful slasher films that mixes formulaic plot developments wth a few surprises.

Justin Long in “Barbarian” (Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios)

“Barbarian” falters with uneven pacing and some gaps in logic, but this slasher flick delivers the type of suspenseful mystery, jump scares and interesting characters that a horror movie should. The acting performances are better than the screenplay. If not for the performances and some clever surprises, “Barbarian” would be a very run-of-the-mill horror movie.

Written and directed by Zach Cregger, “Barbarian” is somewhat of a departure for Cregger, who is also known as an actor who does a lot of work in comedy. (He was one of the original cast members of “The Whitest Kids U’ Know,” the comedy sketch series that was on the IFC network from 2007 to 2011, after launching for a short stint on the Fuse network.) Cregger’s feature-film debut as a writer/director was the forgettable 2009 sex comedy “Miss March,” in which he co-starred with Trevor Moore, one of the other cast members of “The Whitest Kids ‘U Know.”

“Barbarian” begins with the arrival of aspiring filmmaker Tess Marshall (played by Georgina Campbell), who has traveled to Detroit, because she has a job interview to be an assistant to a semi-famous documentary filmmaker. Tess is staying at a one-bedroom house (at the address 476 Barbary) that she rented through Airbnb. And because this is a horror movie, she arrives at night when it’s raining outside.

To her surprise, Tess finds out that there’s another guest who’s already at the house, and his rental time is for the same time that she’s been booked. His name is Keith Toshko (played by Bill Skarsgård), who has arrived from Brooklyn, New York. Keith tells Tess that he booked his reservation through Home Away, an online service that’s similar to Airbnb. Keith also says that he’s part of an artist collective called the Lion Tamers Collective, and he’s in Detroit to look for living space for the group.

After Tess and Keith see that they both have confirmations for the same booking, Tess offers to leave, since Keith arrived at the house first. Tess starts to call around to find a hotel room to book, but the first place she calls doesn’t have any vacancies. Keith says that there’s a big convention happening in Detroit, so she probably won’t have much luck finding a hotel room. The movie never says where Tess lives, but it’s far enough were she had to rent a car for this trip.

There are several moments in “Barbarian” when people make less-than-smart decisions—the types of decisions where viewers might say to themselves, “I would never do that.” The first of those moments in “Barbarian” happens when Tess takes Keith’s word for it that she won’t find a hotel room, and she gives up too easily in her search to find a hotel. This is the type of questionable decision that horror movies rely on, in order to put characters in danger.

Tess then offers to sleep in her car for the night, but Keith insists that she stay in the house because the neighborhood is too dangerous for her to be sleeping in her car at night. At this point, even though Keith is friendly and polite, viewers will be wondering if Keith really is a good guy, or if he has sinister intentions for Tess. This question is answered at a certain point in the movie, but “Barbarian” does a very good job of keeping viewers guessing about what’s going to happen.

Tess then makes the fateful decision to spend the night at the house. Keith tells Tess that she can have the bedroom, while he sleeps on the couch. Because Keith is a complete stranger to Tess, as a precaution, Tess uses her phone to secretly take a photo of Keith’s driver’s license when she see his wallet on a table in the bedroom.

There’s tension in the house, but not just because of fear. After a while, there’s sexual tension, because it becomes obvious that Keith is attracted to Tess. And when Tess begins to feel more comfortable around Keith, the attraction becomes mutual. Their first night together in the house has some scares for Tess when she wakes up in the middle of the night to find out that her bedroom door, which she had closed behind her, is open.

The terror in the house doesn’t happen right away. Tess begins to trust Keith enough that she accepts his offer to share the house with him for the rest of their stay in Detroit. When Tess goes outside the house for the first time when it’s daylight, she sees that the house is the only well-kept house on a residential street that looks like a bombed-out war zone. All of the other houses on the street look like condemned, unhabitable buildings.

The street is also eerily quiet, except for a harrowing incident when a homeless-looking man on the street—Tess later finds out his name is Andre (played by Jaymes Butler)—runs after her and yells at her not to stay in the house. Tess is so frightened by this stranger, she runs into the house and locks herself inside. When she calls 911 to report the incident, the operator says that there are no police units available to go to that street.

Tess gets another big red flag when she goes to her job interview with the documentary filmmaker Catherine James (played by Kate Nichols), who asks Tess where she’s staying while Tess is in Detroit. When Tess mentions the neighborhood and that she’s staying at an Airbnb house rental, Catherine’s immediate reaction is surprise that this neighborhood has a house that meets Airbnb rental standards. Catherine is also very concenred that Tess is staying in that neighborhood, which has a bad reputation for crime, so Catherine urges Tess to be careful.

And something horrible does happen in that house. Luckily for viewers, it’s not revealed in the “Barbarian” trailer or other marketing materials. The movie avoids the pitfall of not giving away its best moments or the movie’s chief villain in the trailer. However, it’s enough to say (as shown in the “Barbarian” trailer) that there’s a long and sinister tunnel underneath the house. And lurking in that tunnel is someone identified in the movie’s credits as The Mother (played by Matthew Patrick Davis), who will definitely make viewers squirm.

Meanwhile, about halfway through the movie, “Barbarian” introduces another character who has a connection to this house. He’s a famous actor named AJ Gilbride (played by Justin Long), who lives in Los Angles. AJ is successful enough to be a steadily working actor who gets starring roles, but he’s not mega-rich. He owns some rental properties, including the house in Detroit where Tess and Keith are staying.

AJ is first seen in the story as he gets bad news from his agents: An actress named Melisa (voiced by Kate Bosworth), whom he is co-starred with in a TV pilot called “Chip Off the Old Block,” is accusing him of rape. Melisa is suing AJ because of this alleged sexual assault. AJ might also face criminal charges. AJ, who vehemently proclaims his innocence, tells anyone who’ll listen that the sex he had with Melisa was consensual.

Because of the scandal, the TV network for “Chip Off the Old Block” has decided that if the network picks up “Chip Off the Old Block” as a series, AJ will no longer be a part of the show. AJ says that he plans to countersue Melisa for defamation. His attorney advises AJ not to contact Melisa or talk to the media while the case is pending.

AJ gets more bad news when he visits his business manager, who tells AJ that AJ doesn’t have enough money to cover the cost of AJ’s legal fees. The business manager advises AJ to sell some of AJ’s property. The business manager also tells AJ that he no longer wants to work with AJ.

A desperate and despondent AJ goes to Detroit to see what he can do about selling the house that he owns at 476 Barbary. AJ has neglected the property so much, he wasn’t even aware that the property’s management company had been renting out the house to visitors for temporary stays. He’s in for a shock when he finds out what’s been going on at that house.

“Barbarian” has a flashback to the 1980s, when this Detroit neighborhood was safe, clean and well-maintained. A middle-aged man named Frank (played by Richard Brake) is seen going to a home supply store and telling a helpful sales clerk that he needs plastic sheets for a “home birth.” Viewers see that Frank is actually a bachelor, but he lets the sales clerk assume that he has a pregnant wife who will soon give birth. Frank doesn’t talk much, and there’s something “off” about him, because he acts like someone who has dark secrets.

Frank is then seen arriving unannounced at a house where a woman is home alone. He’s wearing a repairman’s uniform, and he politely tells the lady of the house that he’s from the utility company, and he needs to do an inspection. The woman lets him inside the house without hesitation. Frank then goes in the bathroom alone and unlocks the bathroom window.

After just a few minutes in the house, Frank thanks the woman resident, and he leaves the house. It’s at this point you know that Frank is going to break into the house later through that unlocked bathroom window. Who is Frank and what kind of criminal is he? Those answers are eventually revealed in the movie. This flashback scene also foreshadows that the neighborhood will go downhill when a male neighbor tells Frank that his family is moving soon because the neighborhood is “going to hell.”

“Barbarian” makes a few references to “white flight” in Detroit (when white residents moved out of certain Detroit neighborhoods because more black people were moving in) and the #MeToo movement. But these social issues don’t overwhelm the story, which remains mostly focused on the horror. “Barbarian” is an overall commentary on decay and neglect in communities, particularly in urban areas.

The characters in “Barbarian” are believable as people, even if some of their actions are illogical. For example, after Tess sees some disturbing things in the house, she stays in the house much longer than most people would. It’s very hard to believe that she can’t figure out other options on where to stay besides this creepy house.

“Barbarian” also brings up some questions that are never answered. There’s a part of the movie that shows there have been some missing people with a connection to the street where the house is. Wouldn’t any loved ones and friends be looking for these missing people? And who’s been maintaining the upkeep of the house? There’s no mention of housekeepers for this place. It’s the only house on the street that’s very neat and orderly on the outside of the building, even though the house’s front lawn looks run-down and messy.

A showdown scene near the end of “Barbarian” also doesn’t make sense on a physics level. However, the mystery of the house is plausible, as long as viewers believe the movie’s depiction that the cops in Detroit avoid this neighborhood as much as possible. “Barbarian” is also a cautionary tale about the dangers of renting a vacation home from strangers, particularly for women traveling alone. Tess obviously didn’t do enough research about the neighborhood and house where she’d be staying.

“Barbarian” writer/director Cregger (who has a cameo in the movie as a Detroit friend of AJ’s) could have paced the movie a little better, since the suspense-filled tension stops in areas where the tension should have been better-maintained. However, the movie has a talented cast, and the film delivers plenty of terrifying and ominous moments that should satisfy most horror fans. “Barbarian” is the type of horror movie where viewers shouldn’t overthink some of the details and should enjoy the terror ride for what it is.

20th Century Studios will release “Barbarian” in U.S. cinemas on September 9, 2022.

Review: ‘Wild Indian,’ starring Michael Greyeyes, Chaske Spencer, Kate Bosworth and Jesse Eisenberg

October 5, 2021

by Carla Hay

Michael Greyeyes in “Wild Indian” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“Wild Indian” 

Directed by Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr.

Culture Representation: Taking place in a California and in an unnamed U.S. state, the dramatic film “Wild Indian” features a Native American and white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: Two male cousins of Ojibwe Indian heritage have conflicts with each other over a murder they covered up when they were teenagers more than 30 years earlier.

Culture Audience: “Wild Indian” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching dramatic thrillers about sociopaths where the stories don’t offer easy answers.

Phoenix Wilson (pictured at right) in “Wild Indian” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“Wild Indian” isn’t going to win any awards for groundbreaking portrayals of Native Americans. However, it’s a suspenseful drama about how two cousins in their 40s have very different views of how to handle the murder cover-up that they participated in when they were teenagers. Taking into account that there are very few American-made feature films with Native Americans comprising at least half of the principal cast members (including the lead actor), “Wild Indian” is notable for having this representation on screen.

The movie won’t satisfy people who are looking for a more definitive ending to the story. However, “Wild Indian” is an astute observation of how race and class play roles in how people are treated by the criminal justice system. This observation might be too realistic for some people’s comfort.

Written and directed by Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr., “Wild Indian” tells the story of two Native American cousins from the Ojibwe tribe and how their lives took two very different paths after they decided to keep a dark secret: When they were teenagers, one of the cousins shot and killed another teenage boy in a cold-blooded manner, and he convinced his cousin to help him cover up the crime. The cousin who became an accomplice to murder has been wracked with guilt ever since. The cousin who pulled the trigger has no guilt and would do anything to keep this crime a secret.

If viewers have a problem with Native Americans being portrayed as criminals in this movie, it’s worth noting that “Wild Indian” writer/director Corbine is also from the Ojibwe tribe. “Wild Indian” is his feature-film directorial debut. Corbine’s “Wild Indian” depiction of Native American culture is less about negative stereotypes and more about socioeconomic effects on Native Americans. The movie confronts the very real issues of how Native Americans are treated by American society can depend largely on how well a Native American assimilates into places dominated by white people.

“Wild Indian” shows two parts of the lives of cousins Makwa Giizheg and Teddo: when they are in their early teens in 1985, and when they are in their late-40s in 2019. The actors portraying the two cousins are Phoenix Wilson as young Makwa, Julian Gopal as young Teddo, Michael Greyeyes as adult Makwa and Michael Chaske as adult Teddo. The movie is told from Makwa’s perspective.

As children, Makwa and Teddo (who are about 13 or 14 years old in 1985) live in the same unnamed city in an unnamed U.S. state. (“Wild Indian” was actually filmed in Oklahoma and California.) Makwa, who is an only child, goes to a Catholic school, where he is doing well academically, but he’s an introverted loner. His life at home is very troubled: His mechanic father Darren Giizheg (played by Elisha Pratt) is an alcoholic who is verbally and physically abusive to Makwa. Makwa’s mother Ivy (played by Happy Frejo), who also has a drinking problem, doesn’t do anything to stop the abuse.

Makwa and Teddo go to the same school, where Teddo has a secret crush on a fellow student named Alyse (played by Lauren Newsham), who is pretty and popular. Makwa is too shy to approach Alyse not just because he feels like a social outcast who comes from a troubled family, but also because of underlying, unspoken issues about race. Alyse is white, and so is James Wolf (played by Colton Knaus), the student who has started dating Alyse.

Not surprisingly, Makwa is jealous of James, but Makwa keeps those feelings to himself. At home, Makwa has to try to avoid getting beaten up by his father, who will fly into rages for no good reason. During one of these abuse incidents, Darren physically assaults Makwa and shouts at Makwa: “I don’t want you in the house!” And so, Makwa has to find another place to stay for the night.

The movie doesn’t really show Teddo’s home life when Teddo was a teenager. However, it’s implied that when things get rough in Makwa’s household, he can find refuge in Teddo’s household. Needless to say, Teddo is Makwa’s closest companion. Teddo is the one who teaches Makwa how to shoot a rifle.

Makwa gets injuries from the physical abuse, and some of those injuries (such as a black eye and bruises) are difficult to hide. At school, Makwa is called into the office of the school principal, a caring priest named Father Daniels (played by Scott Haze), who tactfully tries to find out if Makwa is being abused at home. Father Daniels asks Makwa how he got the bruises.

Makwa is sullen and abrupt when he replies, “I was running and I fell. Can I go now?” Father Daniels then asks Makwa about Makwa’s parents: “Do they drink often?” It’s a sore subject for Makwa, who cuts the conversation short. Makwa tells Father Daniels that he’s doing well academically, so there’s no reason for him to be in the principal’s office. It’s the first indication that Makwa has a side to him that’s willing to defy authority and deny there’s a problem to anyone who might want to help him.

In their free time, Makwa and Teddo like to go into the woods to shoot things, such as discarded items, for target practice. They use a rifle owned by Teddo’s father. And one day in the woods during target practice, when Teddo is a few dozen yards away, Makwa happens to see his rival James by himself. Makwa takes aim and coldly murders James.

Teddo hears the gunshot and goes over to see what Makwa as shooting at, and he’s shocked to se James’ dead body. Whle Teddo is panicking and says they should call an ambulance or the police, Makwa convinces Teddo not to tell anyone because he says that they will both get in trouble. Instead, Makwa convinces Teddo to help him bury James in the woods. It’s a secret that they will carry for the next 34 years.

Before the movie fast-forwards to 2019, there’s a very telling scene that shows that Makwa isn’t a misunderstood child who made a horrible mistake. After another vicious fight with his father, Makwa bites his father’s hand, and then runs outside to the woods, where Makwa finds the spot where James’ body iss buried, and he urinates on this makeshift grave. It’s at this point that viewers know what Makwa is a sociopath with no remorse for the murder he committed.

In 2019, Makwa is a successful business executive at an unnamed corporate job in California. The type of business he does isn’t fully described in the movie, but it’s a company where Makwa has to interact with important clients. Some of these clients like to play golf, so Makwa is shown playing golf as a way to be in a better position to network with clients or potential clients.

And there’s something else about Makwa’s reinvention as a successful executive who’s on the rise at his company: He’s changed his name from Makwa Giizheg to Michael Peterson. Michael is also married to an attractive blonde named Greta (played by Kate Bosworth), and they have a son named Michael Jr., who’s about 2 years old. Greta does not know about Michael’s past, including his former name.

Michael and Greta have an upper-middle-class lifestyle somewhere in the Los Angeles area. She works in human resources and isn’t very enthusiastic about her career choice. it’s why when Greta finds out that she’s pregnant, she tells Michael that she wants to take a leave of absence from her job. Michael doesn’t seem very happy that Greta is pregnant with their second child, since this second child was unplanned. Viewers will soon see that Makwa/Michael is not only a sociopath, but he’s also a control freak.

Whatever attempts that Makwa/Michael made to assimilate into his predominantly white environment, he still gets reminders that he’s a person of color. At his job, a white co-worker named Jerry (played by Jesse Eisenberg) seems to genuinely like Michael and is rooting for his success. But when Jerry talks about Michael being a top candidate to be promoted into an open position, he mentions Michael being Native American as something that will make the company look progressive. It’s a casually racist remark that implies that Michael’s race can be used as a trendy gimmick instead of Michael being qualified for the promotion, solely based on his skills and experience.

Meanwhile, as Makwa/Michael has made a life for himself as an “upstanding citizen” who’s living “The American Dream,” Teddo has spent 12 of the past 34 years years in and out of prison. He spent 10 years in prison for drug dealing. He’s also been incarcerated for drug possession and assault and battery.

In 2019, Teddo (who is a a bachelor with no children) has been released from prison and is trying to get his life back on track. He’s moved back into his family home, where he lives with his sister Cammy (played by Lisa Cromarty), who is the single mother of a 5-year-old son named Daniel (played by Hilario “Tres” Garcia III), who is very shy. Since Teddo’s parents aren’t mentioned at this point in the story, it’s implied that they are dead.

Teddo has a much bigger problem than difficulty finding a job because he’s an ex-felon. His conscience has been weighing heavily on him because of the secret that he and Makwa have been keeping. The two cousins have not seen or spoken to each other in years, but Teddo decides he’s going to track down Makwa and confront him about this dark secret. Teddo also reaches out to Lisa Wolf (played by Sheri Foster), the mother of James. (Jennifer Rader portrays Lisa in the scenes that take place in 1985.)

There are some other things that happen in the movie that should be surprises but unfortunately are revealed in the “Wild Indian” trailer. It’s enough to say that Makwa/Michael is forced to deal with this secret, and he goes to extreme lengths to try act innocent. During this period of time, viewers see that Makwa/Michael has been fighting a compulsion to commit violent crimes against people.

For example, Makwa/Michael has a disturbing encounter with a stripper that is eerily similar to what real-life serial killers have done to victims who’ve had violent experiences with serial killers. After this incident, Makwa/Michael is seen frantically praying in a church. It shows he has some feelings of guilt over his horrific crimes, but whatever guilt he feels is overshadowed by his need for self-preservation and control.

“Wild Indian” shows how Makwa/Michael uses his con man skills to lie and and manipulate his way out of a few situations. The movie never shows what happened in the years between the James Wolf’s murder in 1985 and Makwa/Michael’s life in 2019, but it’s easy to see that Makwa/Michael’s reinvention isn’t just about covering up the murder. He now lives a life of privilege, which he uses to hs advantage when it comes time for him to get a lawyer.

As the sociopathic Makwa/Michael, Greyeyes gives a chilling performance, even if it is a little robotic at times. Maybe it’s just Greyeyes’ way of portraying someone who has no empathy. All the other supporting characters in Makwa/Michael’s orbit (except for Teddo) are somewhat two-dimensional. Not enough time is spent with these supporting characters to get a sense of who they are as well-rounded people.

Teddo is a much more interesting character to watch because his adult life is more difficult and complicated than Makwa/Michael’s life. Even though Teddo has more morality than Makwa/Michael, Teddo’s prison record automatically puts him at a disadvantage in how people will judge Teddo and Teddo’s credibility. Spencer gives the role a very compassionate nuance in how he portrays Teddo’s troubled soul.

“Wild Indian” doesn’t have a typical story arc that movies tend to have about people who’ve covered up of a murder years ago, and their past comes back to haunt them. This movie is more of a character study than a predictable criminal justice story. People who have a more realistic view of the world will probably appreciate “Wild Indian” more than viewers who expect movies like this to gloss over life’s harsh realities and wrap up everything nicely in a tidy bow.

Vertical Entertainment released “Wild Indian” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on September 3, 2021.

Review: ‘Force of Nature’ (2020), starring Emile Hirsch, Kate Bosworth, Mel Gibson, David Zayas and Stephanie Cayo

July 1, 2020

Mel Gibson, Emile Hirsch, Kate Bosworth and Stephanie Cayo in “Force of Nature” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Force of Nature” (2020) 

Directed by Michael Polish

Culture Representation: Taking place in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the action flick “Force of Nature” has a racially diverse cast (white people, Latinos and one African American) portraying middle-class citizens and criminals.

Culture Clash: During a hurricane, two police officers and four other people in an apartment building try to fight off a gang of ruthless thieves who’ve invaded the mostly evacuated building to steal a safe full of valuables worth $55 million.

Culture Audience: “Force of Nature” will appeal primarily to people who like movies with a lot of gun violence but very little substance.

Emile Hirsch and William Catlett in “Force of Nature” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

Let’s say you’re in a gang of thieves who want to pull off the perfect heist in a building when there won’t be hardly anyone in the building. When do you want to commit this crime? During a hurricane, of course. That’s the premise behind the laughably bad action movie “Force of Nature,” whose stupidity is as relentless as the fake torrential rain that’s supposed to pass for a Category 5 hurricane in this mess of a story.

Directed by Michael Polish and written by Cory Miller, “Force of Nature” can’t even get basic elements right when it comes to portraying a hurricane in the movie. In “Force of Nature,” the Category 5 hurricane just looks like a heavy rain storm on the Category 2 level, since the wind gusts in the outside fight scenes are very mild compared to what a real Category 5 hurricane looks like.

But people who make these kinds of mindless movies aren’t really too concerned about realism or having a believable story. Their main concern is to stage as much violence and stunt shots to fill up the story with as much action as possible and distract from the flimsy plot. However, even the action scenes in “Force of Nature” are unimaginative and very repetitive.

In “Force of Nature” (which takes place in San Juan, Puerto Rico), viewers are introduced to the main protagonist: A police officer whose last name is Cardillo (his first name is never mentioned; he’s portrayed by Emile Hirsh), who is shown in the beginning of the film by himself in a bathtub with a gun pointed in his mouth. Cardillo doesn’t go through with shooting himself, and when he gets dressed, viewers see that he’s a police officer. Why is he suicidal? It’s revealed later in the movie.

Now that we know that this cop is suicidal, you have to wonder if it’s deliberate or a coincidence that this “gun in mouth” scene is similar to the “gun in mouth” scene in 1987’s “Lethal Weapon,” which had Mel Gibson also portraying a suicidal cop. It’s worth mentioning this comparison, since Gibson plays an angry retired cop in “Force of Nature.” We’ll get to that in a moment.

When Cardillo goes to work, he’s less than thrilled to find out that he’s supposed to train a new partner that day: Jess Peña (played by Stephanie Cayo), who has a fairly upbeat personality, but is no pushover when a cranky Cardillo makes it obvious that he doesn’t want to work with her.

Puerto Rico is about to go on lockdown because of an impending Category 5 hurricane, so Jess has been assigned to work with Cardillo to train on how to evacuate residents. They’ve been called to assist in an apartment building where two of the residents stubbornly refuse to evacuate.

Meanwhile, a crime boss named John, nicknamed John the Baptist (played by David Zayas), and one of his henchmen have taken an elderly lady named Mrs. Gradisher (played by Leslee Emmett) to a bank, where they force her by gunpoint to open a safe-deposit box in a private room. There’s cash in the box (which the thugs take), but what they’re really more interested in is a painting in the box.

As they start to leave the bank, John coldly executes the lady in the head in the bank lobby. Several horrified people in the bank have witnessed the shooting. Therefore, not only are these criminals ruthless, they also don’t care about being seen committing murder without any disguises, in full view of witnesses and security cameras.

Meanwhile, at a grocery store, a man named Jason Griffin (played by William Catlett) has stocked up on a cartload of meat. He’s taken so much meat that there’s no more left for other customers. Griffin gets into a dispute with another man who asks Jason for one packet of meat, but Griffin refuses.

The angry customer than gets a store manager and falsely claims that Griffin stole a package of meat right out of the hands of the other customer’s son. Even though Griffin denies it, the manager sides with the other customer and asks Griffin to leave the store. (There are some racial undertones to this scene, since Griffin is African American and the other customer is not.)

Before he leaves, Griffin lunges at the other customer in anger. And the next thing you know, the police are called. Guess who are the cops who show up to respond to this incident? Cardillo and Jess, of course.

The customer who started the dispute declines to press charges on Griffin, who is released from police custody. When Cardillo asks Griffin why he was trying to buy all that meat, Griffin explains that he wanted to feed his cat Janet before the hurricane arrived.

And it just so happens that Griffin lives in the same apartment building where Cardillo and Jess were headed to assist in an evacuation. Cardillo and Jess agree to let Griffin back into this apartment to feed his cat, on the condition that Griffin immediately evacuate after the cat is fed.

It’s easy to figure out, based on the type of meat and the large quantities that Griffin was going to buy, that he does not have a regular domestic cat. But apparently, these two cops are too dumb to notice these clues, and they’re shocked when they find out what type of cat Griffin has. This animal is the reason for a subplot to the movie that won’t be revealed in this review.

Meanwhile, the two residents of the building who refuse to evacuate are retired cop Ray (played by Gibson) and another retirement-age man named Paul Bergkamp (played by Jorge Luis Ramos), who is originally from Germany. Bergkamp has no one else in his apartment, but Ray’s daughter Troy (played by Kate Bosworth, who’s married in real life to “Force of Nature” director Polish) is in the apartment with Ray, because she’s been unsuccessfully trying get him to evacuate.

Troy is a doctor (her medical skills come in handy later in the story), but she tells Jess, “He doesn’t exactly respond to female authority,” which is why Ray won’t listen to her. (We might never know if Gibson’s own reputation for making sexist comments had anything to do with why he got cast in this role.)

At any rate, Ray is an ill-tempered curmudgeon who immediately says when the cops arrive to evacuate him: “The current PD [police department] is full of pussies who care more about liberties and politics. I’m staying here.”

The only other known person at the apartment building is the superintendent, who is outside boarding up and securing windows. Not long after Cardillo and Jess have the displeasure of meeting Ray, Cardillo witnesses the superintendent getting gunned down by John and his small gang of thugs. Why are these criminals at this apartment? To get to a safe that has $55 million worth of valuables.

The rest of the movie’s action is a showdown between the bad guys and the people at the apartment. And just to make it harder for anyone to escape, the apartment elevator just happens to be not working. And did we mention that Ray has an arsenal of weapons at his disposal?

Gibson seems to be very self-aware of his controversial reputation, because he plays Ray to the hilt as an anti-hero, so there’s almost an element of camp to his acting. The rest of the cast members play it straight in this very formulaic, cheaply made action flick. The visual effects are tacky, and the director does a sloppy job with the action sequences, where it’s obvious to see who the stunt doubles are.

Much of the dialogue in “Force of Nature” is also very cringeworthy. At one point in the movie, Jess says, “Let’s go. Rock me like hurricane.” “Force of Nature” is supposed to take place during a hurricane, but the movie itself is another kind of disaster.

Lionsgate released “Force of Nature” on digital and VOD on June 30, 2020.

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