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In the Blood (2014)
In theaters and via on-demand outlets.
There are many ways you could try to look at In the Blood. It's a stalwart reminder of traditional punch-and-kick action flicks standing firm for a tradition of non-CGI stunts. It's a throwback to the 1980s cheap thrills low-budget actioner but with an awesome woman delivering the body blows rather than over-muscled meatheads. It's unpretentious and uncomplicated.
It's also terrible. Which doesn't disqualify any of the above. Most of the stuff that comes to mind that fits those descriptions isn't very good either. Limited theatrical runs and video-on-demand is the new direct-to-VHS/DVD. Apparently there's still a racket for this kind of thing.
What will lead most to In the Blood, as it did me, is Gina Carano, the former MMA superstar turned would-be movie star. Carano ably led one of cinema geekdom's most beloved cult films of recent years, the Steven Soderbergh-directed Haywire. Soderbergh kept things lean and no-nonsense and didn't push Carano out of the comfort zone he provided her. Though few expected her to be the next Meryl Streep, she had a decent screen presence and the fights were excellent.
Veteran director John Stockwell, who has a ton of credits under his belt, including the undervalued Crazy/Beautiful with Kirsten Dunst, is miles away from Soderbergh territory with this one. He pushes Carano in the deep end with an overwrought script by two largely undistinguished writers (Bennett Yellin's best credit is, I kid you not, Dumb and Dumber), leaving her to flounder in emotional waters. Then, just to add injury to the insult, he and his cinematographer (P.J. Lopez, Britney Spears Live: The Femme Fatale Tour) and the editorial department (four people credited on IMDB, no one clearly listed as the main cutter) throw mud all over the action sequences so we never really get to see the lady do what she does best.
Carano stars in this turkey as ex-junkie vigilante Ava, newly married to the man of her dreams, as played by autocorrect's mortal enemy, Cam Gigandet (Burlesque). On their honeymoon to a remote island near Puerto Rico, a zip-line accident puts Cam in the hospital, from whence he promptly disappears. Though his family (including Treat Williams as the boy's dad) and local police (led by Luis Guzman) are convinced Ava did something to the groom to get at the money she's married into, Ava thinks it's more connected to their run-in with gangsters at the discothèque, whom she promptly beat to an inch of their lives when one of them (Danny Trejo, Machete) got a little handsy. The rest of In the Blood is the hunt for these men.
And that's it. Excepting the idiotic explanation for why the chuckleheaded crime boss (Amaury Nolasco, The Rum Diary) staged the kidnapping (hint: it's something about his blood), the plot of In the Blood is pretty basic. The whys don't matter much anyway. We're just looking to see Gina Carano make men beg for their lives.
Which she does over and over. And in a manner that is often shockingly brutal and disturbingly cruel. Flashbacks to her training give us scant indication for why Ava has so little regard to human life, but the callousness makes it hard to look at even someone as likable as Carano as a heroine. She chokes out a nurse and shoves her in the trunk of her own car, never to return, despite only having a vague inkling of this woman even being involved. She tortures witnesses, and will break a limb on anyone who so much as raises a hand to wave at her with nary a glance back or an "oops." It's all a bit disconcerting.
Leaving In the Blood without much to recommend it. A bad script, bad acting, bad action, and an actress you otherwise enjoy being made to look like a terrible human being. The only way this movie is at all successful is if they were actually trying to fail. Maybe John Stockwell is a UFC fan looking to tank Carano's Hollywood career so she'll return to fighting, I don't know. Regardless, In the Blood shouldn't even have gone straight to DVD, more like straight into the bin for toxic medical waste.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent projects include the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat; Archer Coe and the Thousand Natural Shocks, a loopy crime tale drawn by Dan Christensen; and the horror miniseries Madame Frankenstein, a collaboration with Megan Levens. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.