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A snowbound bag-of-cash thriller set in the vast North Maine Woods, John Barr’s Blood and Money casts Tom Berenger as an ailing hunter trying to escape from bank robbers who want their money back. A solid B movie whose pleasures aren’t diminished much by the screenplay’s dicey dialogue — plenty of the film has no dialogue at all — it’s a welcome vehicle for its star, who has been underused by filmmakers for decades.
Berenger’s Jim Reed is a retired Marine whose family fell apart long ago when he killed his daughter in a drunk-driving accident. Now in AA, he lives alone in a camper-top pickup and stalks deer through hunting season. Early on, a scene of him vomiting blood and passing out on the icy ground suggests he knows his days are numbered; still, he seems in no hurry to go.
Release date: May 15, 2020
Given the millions of acres of unpopulated forest out here, Jim is rightly shocked when he shoots what he thinks is a buck and instead finds a woman dying on the ground. She manages to get the words “you’re a fucking dead man” out before expiring, but Jim doesn’t connect the dots between that threat and the black duffel bag at her side. He flees the scene, not realizing what he stumbled into until that night, when the woman’s picture appears in a news report about five thieves who took $1.2 million from a bank.
Whether he returns to the scene to get that money or solely to make sure he didn’t leave any traces leading back to him, Jim is soon in a mess: lugging the bag and his rifle through the snow while the four remaining, and very motivated, bank robbers try to catch him.
While never exactly pulse-pounding, the film is on solid ground out here in the woods, watching the calm, mostly silent hunter use his skills to compensate for his age and the fact that he’s outgunned. His pursuers aren’t the most fearsome bunch, but they have assault rifles and a demonstrated willingness to use them.
Framing scenes that establish the stakes of this drama, though, are less convincing. Director Barr serves ably in his secondary role of DP, but leaves something to be desired as a screenwriter: Two collaborators are credited, but their often on-the-nose dialogue creaks as it shows how Jim’s painful family history resonates with the current suffering of his regular diner waitress Debbie (Kristen Hager) and her alcoholic husband George (Jimmy LeBlanc).
In the third act, Barr is smart not to think he has to spell out the obvious: Jim’s insistence on outliving his tormentors has less to do with self-preservation than with buying Debbie the second chance his own family didn’t get. The film plays this with nearly no sentimentality, as befits a protagonist who is living out his final years without self-pity.
Production company: Allagash
Distributor: Sceen Media (Available Friday on VOD and digital)
Cast: Tom Berenger, Kristen Hager, Jimmy LeBlanc
Director-director of photography: John Barr
Screenwriters: John Barr, Mike McGrale, Alan Petherick
Producer: Suza Horvat
Executive producers: Paul Casale, James Barr, Greg Munroe
Production designer: Alan Petherick
Costume designer: Tasha Goldthwait
Editor: Roger Cropley
Composer: Zak McNeil
Casting director: Tannis Vallely
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