A sludgy action thriller with an out-of-shape star, “Blood and Money” doesn’t have a lot going for it other than its setting: the uncharted north Maine woods in the dead of winter. That pristine blank slate serves as the backdrop for a largely suspense-free suspense film involving a hunter with a tragic past, a bag of stolen money, and four angry criminals who should have brushed up on their wilderness skills.
Tom Berenger (“Platoon,” “Major League”) plays Jim Reed, an aging loner who lives out of a camper and spends most of his time stalking deer. His few friends include the rangers who check him in and out of the woods, his fellow veterans at the AA meetings in town, and Debbie (Kristen Hager), a sympathetic waitress who reminds Jim of the daughter who died while he was driving drunk. Jim doesn’t smile much.
When he’s not not smiling, he’s swearing, either in frustration or shock. The screenplay by director John Barr gives Jim ample opportunity for both: First he misses his shot at a buck in the forest and then his bullet finds an unlucky accidental target, leaving a duffel bag full of stolen casino cash on his hands and a group of angry accomplices who cuss even more than Jim.
The snowbound cat-and-mouse game that follows is notable for its lackadaisical pace and the hero’s difficulty in becoming the ruthless killing machine the genre requires. Jim is wheezy and sick, pausing between cigarettes to cough blood, and Berenger conveys a grouchy exhaustion that effectively serves the character while reflecting, perhaps, on an actor’s opinion of his late-career options.
Director Barr makes his feature debut after a long career as a cinematographer and camera operator, and “Blood and Money” looks fine. The town of Rumford, Maine, up in the northwest corner of the state, is captured in all its weathered grace and the scenes in the woods provide a view of a beautiful but desolate landscape. It must have been a difficult shoot, and the fact that the film is a New England production, made with local backing and locals in the cast and crew, is a good thing.
None of which can disguise the flaws: a boilerplate screenplay with more function than flavor; slack editing to pad out the running time; and absurd plot developments like a bullet Jim takes to the chest which bothers him about as much as a mosquito bite. Everybody in Maine knows that if you want to stop a man in his tracks, you need to break out the black flies.
BLOOD AND MONEY
Written and directed by John Barr. Starring Tom Berenger, Kristen Hager. Available for rental on cable systems and streaming-video platforms. 89 minutes. Unrated (as R: language, violence)