Sunday, January 18, 2015
In The Blood (2014)(Minor Spoilers Review)
**This review contains MINOR spoilers. No major character deaths or reveals**
In 2002, a teenage Ava lives with her father, Casey (Stephen Lang) in a shabby Bridgeport, Conneticut home. As a hardened outlaw, Casey trains his daughter to be a lethal fighting machine with rigorous survival exercises and intense sparring sessions.
One night, a group of thugs invade Casey and Ava’s home. The intruders murder Casey, but Ava turns the tables with a shotgun. Ava murders the remaining thugs to survive the attack, but a callous Ava refuses to shed one tear for her father’s death.
Twelve years later, a reformed Ava (Gina Carano) prepares for her wedding ceremony in Arlington, Virgina. Derek Grant (Cam Gigandet) met Ava at a narcotics anonymous meeting, and he’s ready to trust and spend the rest of his life with her, but Derek’s wealthy father, Robert (Treat Williams) doesn’t trust Ava and her motvations for marrying Derek. Ava’s troubled past raises a red flag for Robert, and the thought of Ava devising a scheme to marry Derek for a piece of the family fortune is too much to handle, so Mr. Grant pushes Derek to sign a prenuptial agreement. To prove his loyalty to Ava, Derek refuses his father’s request, and he tears the prenup in half to erase any doubts.
After the wedding, Derek and Ava take a trip to a Caribbean island for their honeymoon, and Derek uses his grandfather’s old house as a vacation home. On the island, Derek and Ava meet a friendly local named Manny (Ismael Cruz Cordova). Manny convinces Derek and Ava to join him for a wild night at a local nightclub. Here, Ava and Derek cross paths with Big Biz (Danny Trejo), a powerful and respected gangster on the island. Big Biz tries to seduce Ava, but Derek intervenes. Ava fights off an assault to protect Derek, and Manny helps the couple escape in a taxi. After the brawl, Big Biz’s rival, Silvio Lugo (Amaury Nolasco) issues a stern warning about disrupting the peaceful and festive environment at the club.
In the morning, Derek and Ava take a chance on ziplining after a persuasive pitch from Manny. The ziplining instructor JoJo (Oscar H. Guerrero) reassures a nervous Ava, but Derek suffers a nasty leg injury after a potentially fatal fall from faulty equipment on the zipline.
JoJo calls for an ambulance, but Manny disappears. Ava tries to fight her way into the ambulance with Derek, but the paramedics deny Ava’s attempts for insurance concerns. Ava follows the ambulance to the hospital. She loses Derek and the ambulance after a fall, but a friendly local helps Ava with a ride to the hospital.
At the hospital, Ava runs into an unpleasant surprise, when Leta (Yvette Yates), a receptionist, can’t find any records of Derek’s name in the system. Ava forces her way through the doors, but after a quick search, it’s clear Derek is not in the hospital.
Ava turns to the local police for help after an unsuccessful search in every clinic and hospital on the island. Police Chief Ramon Garza (Luis Guzman) is reluctant to help Ava, and after a visit from Derek’s family, Ava takes matters into her own hands to find and rescue Derek.
Ava suspects a cover up after JoJo completely denies knowing, seeing, and assisting Derek, Ava, and Manny on the zipline. A determined Ava embarks on a bloody and deadly mission to find Manny and the paramedics for more answers, and rescue Derek before it‘s too late. But during the fight to uncover the truth behind the conspiracy, Ava unintentionally brings the bitter feud between Big Biz and Silvio to a dangerous boiling point.
Gina Carano has the tools to carve out a sustainable career for herself, as a recognizable face and name in the action genre. When it comes to sex appeal, she has the perfect balance. You notice Carano’s beauty, but her looks are never the main focus for her character, because she has what it takes to be a physical force. That, or Carano’s character(s) can use her good looks to deceive any adversaries (the bathroom scene on the boat is a good example for In The Blood.), and Carano’s MMA background is no secret, so she can rely on a touch of legitimacy for her film roles.
Carano’s Ava is a no-nonsense fighting machine, and Carano delivers another entertaining performance in her comfort zone here. Carano delivers on the physical side of things, and it’s not limited to the fight scenes. Carano carries herself well with convincing body language and an unflinching demeanor, and she’s decent enough in a few emotional scenes.
Although, I will say this, In The Blood constantly tip-toes on a suspension of disbelief line with Ava throughout the movie. Flashbacks show Ava’s tough training sessions with her strict father, and yes, in real life Carano has the MMA credentials, but it’s hard to ignore In The Blood constantly going way over the top to showcase Ava’s deadly combat skills. One scene that sticks out as an example, is Ava trying to fight her way out of the police station, and it takes an entire group of cops to restrain her, and force her to the ground.
As far as the rest of the cast goes, I can’t say too much. Danny Trejo fans shouldn’t get their hopes up too high, because Trejo’s screen time is limited here, and you can say the same thing about Cam Gigandet. If we’re talking about personalities, Trejo plays the powerful hot head, while Gigandet is the loyal husband, and that’s about it. Nolasco’s Silvio is your typical cocky and greedy bad guy, he’s a bully, and that’s about it.
There’s some potential for a feud between Treat Williams’ Robert and Carano’s Ava. To give an example, there’s a scene, where Robert accuses Ava of planning Derek’s disappearance to collect some of the family fortune, and Ava responds to the accusations with a defiant “f*** you.” Robert resented Ava, because he believes she’s nothing more than a junkie and a crazy fraud, who’s trying to take advantage of his son, but Ava is willing to fight and die for Derek, because he saved her from a miserable life. The bitter distrust on Robert’s side, and Ava’s loyalty is believable, but the big problem is the feud never has a chance to develop, because Williams’ screen time is limited, and his character disappears after the visit to the island.
Overall, director John Stockwell’s work behind the camera is hit-and-miss. The editing for Ava and Derek’s honeymoon highlight reel and Ava’s risky bike ride through the city looks and feels clunky and choppy. The hiccups are not enough to drag In The Blood down into the gutter quality wise, but they’re noticeable.
If you’re looking for an artsy and stylish action/crime thriller, In The Blood is not for you. But if you’re looking for some mindless fun action, and hard hitting fight scenes, In The Blood is a satisfying film. Yes, the torture, interrogate, fight, kick ass, and repeat formula during Ava’s “WHERE’S MY HUSBAND?!?!” mission feels repetitive and tedious at times, but Carano consistently delivers a good show throughout In The Blood on the physical side of the film. Again, In The Blood is not a masterpiece, the dialogue sounds rigid and contrived most of the time, and the characters are one-dimensional, but if you’re looking for an entertaining guilty pleasure, it’s worth a try. And the big twist at the at the end is a little far-fetched, but it's a genuine and refreshing surprise.
As I said before, Gina Carano has a future in the action world. For now, I won’t go as far as using the superstar tag, but she has what it takes to make a real name for herself. Haywire is still Carano’s best starring action role to date, and nothing comes close. It’s true Carano was surrounded by a talented cast in Haywire, and you can say the likes of Fassbender and McGregor helped hide her flaws, but Carano doesn’t need to deliver an Oscar worthy performance. The potential is there, and she can build her career around the persona of a lethal action heroine, but she needs more time and more films to build a more solid résumé.
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