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In the Blood: Film Review

In the Blood - H 2014
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

The Bottom Line

Serviceable suspense pic does little to further Carano's action-hero career.

Opens

Friday, April 4 (Anchor Bay)

Cast

Gina Carano, Cam Gigandet, Luis Guzman, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Amaury Nolasco, Treat Williams, Danny Trejo

Director

John Stockwell

Gina Carano plays a new bride hunting for her missing husband on their Caribbean honeymoon.

Aiming to continue the work started in Steven Soderbergh's Haywire, John Stockwell's In the Blood again bends the talents of MMA star Gina Carano toward fiction, casting her as a new bride hunting for men who appear to have kidnapped her husband. Less ambitious than Soderbergh's film in a few ways but workmanlike, the pic would have benefited significantly from a more taut edit; as it is, it will attract few new Carano fans in theaters and reach most of her existing ones on VOD.

The fighter plays Ava, a recovering drug user who marries fellow addict Derek (Cam Gigandet). Flashbacks show us the rough world Ava has escaped — she was taught to defend herself viciously by her grizzled dad — a background that worries Derek's upper-crust family, particularly his prenup-minded father (Treat Williams). 

The couple embarks on a honeymoon in the Dominican town of Punta Cana (the film was shot in nearby Puerto Rico), a trip whose idyllic appeal is conveyed flatly in an unimaginative montage of jet skis and beachfront frolic. Soon enough, though, things go wrong. Accepting the offer of a would-be tour guide named Manny (Ismael Cruz Cordova), they find themselves at a sketchy dance club where locals are overly attentive to the curvy gringa. Soon they're in a brawl that might have been a show-stopper, had Stockwell not staged it amid distracting club lights. Danny Trejo, introduced here as a crimelord named Big Biz, literally growls as he approaches Ava, but then he vanishes inexplicably from the film, popping up only to play a dubious role in its climax.

Putting the nightclub melee behind them, Ava and Derek go ziplining with Manny. But Derek's harness fails him smack in the middle of a mile-long run; he survives, but the ambulance that carries him away never reaches the hospital. After a panicked night of visiting local clinics and police stations, Ava starts to suspect this accident was actually an elaborate scheme.

Spoiler alert: it was no accident. But the eventual answer to this riddle, which falls apart under scrutiny, is all but irrelevant. The film is more interested in watching Carano take the law into her own strong hands while dodging opposition from a sluggish lawman (Luis Guzman), who claims to believe she herself has staged Derek's disappearance in order to collect his insurance.

Carano has yet to develop much in the way of on-screen charisma, which isn't a fatal flaw. It's unfair to compare the fighter to earlier avenging women like Pam Grier, Uma Thurman and others, but her physical gifts are undeniable, and the right couple of movies could conceivably position her as a female Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal. In the latter company, the taciturn Carano already holds her own. In the Blood offers her a few memorable moments — one, happily, involves a return to that zipline — but doesn't recognize what is essential in its pulpy, noir-leaning plot and what can be trimmed. A 107-minute runtime might have made sense in a film packed with set-piece showdowns or elaborate escapes, but this is a humbler production, one that should be as direct and punchy as its heroine.

Production: Movie Package Company

Cast: Gina Carano, Cam Gigandet, Luis Guzman, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Amaury Nolasco, Treat Williams, Danny Trejo

Director: John Stockwell

Screenwriters: James Robert Johnston, Bennett Yellin

Producers: Raymond Mansfield, Shaun Redick, Cash Warren

Executive producers: David R. Arnold, Baron Davis, James Gibb, Rachel Green, Michael Ilitch Jr., Dale Armin Johnson, Gary King, Julie B. May, Glenn Murray, Lee Portnoi, Nathan Ross, Luillo Ruiz, Glenn M. Stewart, Belly Torres

Director of photography: P.J. Lopez

Production designer: Monica Monserrate

Costume designer: Milagros Nunez

Editors: Doug Walker, Lucase Eskin

Music: Paul Haslinger

R, 107 minutes