Thursday, May 14, 2020

Tom Berenger in Blood and Money

Maine might be a deep blue state, but not when it comes to guns, especially up north. Just about everyone owns a hunting rifle and many of them rely on it to eat. Jim Reed is one of them. He has been living a lonely, hand-to-mouth existence, but a bag full of stolen cash will change everything, for better or for worse, in John Barr’s Blood and Money, which releases tomorrow on VOD.

Reed looks tired, because he is. He hasn’t had a drink in years, but he sill carries the sorrows he tried to drown. His home is his camper-top RV and his hunting rifle is what passes for his job. Hoping to bag a buck before the season ends (not that he has a license), Reed accidentally shoots a suspicious-looking woman in the woods.

Initially, Reed just tries to cover up the incident. However, he returns to the scene when he recognizes her from news reports. It turns out she was part of a gang of violent armed robbers who just held-up a casino. There is indeed a bag of money near her lifeless body, but her accomplices turn up shortly thereafter.

There are not a lot of surprises in the slow-build thriller that unfolds—emphasis on the slow—but Barr is really more interested in his haunted protagonist and the chilly, remote environment. Frankly, Barr and his lead actor, John Berenger (Oscar-nominated, a long time ago) are so realistic portraying Reed’s creaky, aging body, it undermines the film’s credibility as a thriller, in which the hobbling hunter evades four younger and better armed fugitives.

Still, it is an impressive showcase for Berenger, who has made more than his share of Sniper direct-to-DVD sequels in recent years. However, he really is terrific playing the solitary protagonist. It is a quietly patient performance that fully explores Reed’s guilt and regret, as well as his fundamental humanism. There is a rugged decency to the character that comes out in his scenes with Debbie, a sympathetic diner waitress (nicely played by Kristen Hager) and George, a recently discharged veteran he meets at an AA meeting.

In some ways, Blood and Money could be an older, sadder companion film to Roger Spottiswoode’s under-rated 1988 thriller Shoot to Kill, in which Berenger played a mountain man tracking a killer across the Cascade Mountains. It is sort of like Berenger’s Gran Torino or Harry Brown. One can imagine it held personal resonance for Berenger, who just radiates pathos throughout.

Blood and Money is a small film, but it is nice to see Berenger get a chance to show off his chops. If you fondly remember his 1980s glory years in films like Platoon, Someone to Watch Over Me, and Eddie and the Cruisers, you might want to check it out. Somewhat reservedly recommended as a character study for Berenger’s fans, Blood and Money will be available tomorrow (5/15) on VOD platforms.