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April 03, 2014

In the Blood

in the blood poster.jpg

John Stockwell - 2014
Anchor Bay Films

I would like to acknowledge John Stockwell as an auteur. Maybe not the kind that gets accolades for artistic achievements, but I think the guy is deserving of some deeper investigation of recurring themes. I don't know what Andrew Sarris would make of Stockwell as as "women's director". He's not George Cukor, Ingmar Bergman or anyone else you might name. Then again, his women may only fleetingly share some of the same notions of femininity of past actresses. As far as past work goes, my familiarity is spotty, a handful of features and his work of the TV series, "The L Word". I would like to think that if anyone writes about female action heroes, that John Stockwell has his own chapter.

The main reason to see In the Blood is to watch Gina Carano kick ass. And kick ass she does. And what makes her different from other distaff action stars is her sheer brutality. The film begins with one of several flashbacks, where as a young girl named Ava, she is taught by her father, a very grizzled Stephen Lang, to be able to defend herself in the most extreme circumstances. When Ava fights, there is nothing elegant or balletic about her moves. It's mostly about brute force - hurting someone using bare hands, or an available object, like a baseball bat or a glass in a bar. What also makes Carano unique among female action stars is that she physically does not fit mold of the more conventionally attractive women in similar roles.

in-the-blood-carano-fight.jpg

The basic story has Carano getting married to the son of a very wealthy man. It is mentioned that the two are recovering addicts. The pair go off to a small island near Puerto Rico, where they are talked into visiting a mountainous area which includes a "ride" between two mountain peaks, with the rider hooked on a cable. Things go wrong when the husband gets caught midway and falls. Ava attempts to follow him to the hospital when he inexplicably disappears. The setup is hardly original but it's a an effective hook for the audience. Where In the Blood goes wrong is that the writers seemed to have written themselves into a corner, where the only way out is accomplished by some very big plot holes and half-baked explanations.

Ignoring any narrative deficiencies, we get to see Ava in pursuit of the men who have kidnapped her husband, and get in trouble with the local police, complete with escapes from the law in pursuit of the truth. There are no wisecracks or any attempts to have the violence played for laughs. The humorlessness and single-mindedness of Ava makes her character, at least in spirit, something of a throwback to an earlier era of action heroes, or perhaps, anti-heroes.

On the plus side is good support from Luis Guzman as a cop who might know more than he's sharing with Ava, and Danny Trejo whose very presence always seems to be an announcement of bad news.

Posted by peter at April 3, 2014 07:06 AM