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In the Blood

D: John Stockwell / 108m

Cast: Gina Carano, Cam Gigandet, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Luis Guzmán, Amaury Nolasco, Treat Williams, Stephen Lang, Danny Trejo, Eloise Mumford

Newlyweds Ava (Carano) and Derek (Gigandet) are on their honeymoon in Costa Rica.  One night at a bar they meet Manny (Cordova), a good-natured hustler who persuades the happy couple to go to a club he knows, and on the next day, to “the Caribbean’s longest zip line”.  At the club, Ava draws the attention of Big Biz (Trejo).  When he tries to proposition her, Derek steps in but gets knocked to the ground.  The next thing anyone knows, Ava has beaten up around a dozen or so of Big Biz’s men.  Ava, Derek and Manny leave the club and as planned, the next day they visit the zip line.  Manny and Ava make it across without incident but when Derek travels across, one of the straps splits and he plummets to the forest floor below.  Miraculously he survives, and an ambulance is called.  Unable to travel with Derek, Ava is forced to follow the ambulance to the hospital, only to find when she gets there that Derek never arrived.

With her husband missing, Ava enlists the help of local police chief Garza (Guzmán).  When his investigation stalls at the first hurdle – the zip line operator denies Ava was there – Ava begins her own investigation.  With Manny’s help she learns that the ambulance was a fraud, that local gangster Lugo (Nolasco) is behind Derek’s abduction, and Garza knows all about it.  She rescues Derek but Lugo and his men come after them…

In the Blood - scene

Quite clearly a movie where logic and credibility were not on-set watchwords, In the Blood is like watching an updated Eighties action movie, the kind of action flick Arnold Schwarzenegger might have made on his way to super-stardom.  It has an exotic location, the close friend or family member in peril/needing to be found, the semi-amusing sidekick picked up along the way who provides all the clues, the nasty villain who can shrug off bullet wounds (literally – Lugo walks it off in minutes), a corrupt cop, and as a bonus the family member, Derek’s father, Robert (Williams), who thinks Ava’s bumped him off for his inheritance.  With so much familiar material, the movie drags in places, leaving the viewer waiting for each signposted plot development to go by so the next action sequence can begin.

Having Carano in the lead role helps, her physicality and MMA background making her involvement in the fight scenes entirely believable (and making those scenes possibly the only parts of the movie that are credible).  She takes some punishment along the way, but in a bizarre back story, we see her as a teenager (Paloma Louvat) being raised by her father (Lang) to be strong and overcome pain in a way that makes Big Daddy’s training of Hit Girl in Kick-Ass (2010) look sedate by comparison.  It’s akin to torture, and sits uncomfortably with the rest of the movie, begging the question, just what were screenwriters James Robert Johnston and Bennett Yellin thinking of when they came up with this idea?  Filmed in a dark, nightmarish way, these scenes seem to have been drafted in from another script entirely.

With the fight scenes choreographed to good effect, the movie at least has some things going for it, but otherwise is brutally inefficient in most other areas.  The performances range from amateurish (Carano – but she is still learning), to phoned in (Williams – “has my cheque cleared yet?”), to embarrassing (Trejo – like here, there are some roles he should just say “No” to).  Gigandet is sidelined for the bulk of the movie so has little chance to make an impact, while Guzmán plays the sweaty, deceptive police chief as if it’s a favour to the director.  Nolasco is about as menacing as an irritated tour guide, and Cordova underplays his role to the point of blandness.  It’s only Lang that convinces, his psycho father turn standing out from the crowd and putting a chill on an otherwise sunny movie.

In the director’s chair, Stockwell re-confirms his journeyman status, and as a result the movie never really gets out of third gear.  The script stutters and starts, and the reason for Derek’s abduction is as contrived, barmy and far-fetched as they come, while the relationship between Ava and Derek is painted in such broad strokes as to make it seem that Ava would do the same thing for anyone: brother, cousin, old high school classmate, neighbour six blocks over etc.  And Derek’s family turn up for a day and then head back home as if they were just passing through.  Other scenes are just plain ridiculous and/or embarrassing, but if there’s one scene that stands out as the most incredibly witless moment in the whole movie it’s when Ava stands by and lets the bad guys jam a huge needle into Derek’s spine.

Rating: 4/10 – with very little effort made by the filmmakers, In the Blood sinks under the weight of its own absurdity; with only its fight scenes to recommend it, this is a movie that should be watched with one finger hovering over the fast forward button.