Monday, November 7, 2016

Luke White's Blood Money

Cody gets an early look at an independent thriller that's coming soon to home video.

The feature directorial debut of Luke White, who also produced the film with his twin brother / cinematographer Ed White, Blood Money is sort of like Reservoir Dogs with a horror edge. The plot finds a group of thieves who have just pulled off a heist - a heist we never actually see - holing up in a safe house in the French countryside while they wait for their benefactor to arrive. Unfortunately, things didn't go exactly as planned, one of their own was gravely wounded (killed, in fact), and the longer they wait in this place the more the situation falls apart as tension and paranoia builds.

The script by Rosy Deacon isn't directly trying to copy Reservoir Dogs, I was just reminded of it in the broad strokes, and the characters are certainly nothing like the ones Quentin Tarantino came up with. These aren't veteran criminals, these are just a bunch of kids in their early twenties who have made the really bad decision to steal a piece of art that is owned by the father of one of them. They're a tough bunch to connect with because they're very aloof, rarely showing any deep or intense emotions. When they realize that a member of their group is dead, they are initially troubled, but then quickly calm down - these kids show more concern over who's hooking up with who and whether or not they can check the internet while at the safe house than they do about the dead body they have on their hands. One of their acquaintances died while they were committing a theft, and that's a fact they're able to move on from very quickly.

The emotional detachment displayed by this group was truly baffling to me. Within minutes of digging a grave for their cohort, they're hanging out and telling a ghost story about a witch that haunts the nearby woods. Even if they didn't know their fallen member as well as they know each other, they are still way too flippant about his death and the tougher prison sentence that will now be hanging over their heads because of it. It's like most of them have no concept of life and death or consequences. Even when a couple do start to lament the death in private, they quickly change the subject to discuss a love triangle.

Since I wasn't liking these characters very much, I was very glad when the film shifted into horror-thriller gear, starting with the disappearance of the corpse they haven't seemed to care much about. That gets them stirred up. Soon a mysterious figure is seen lurking around... Is the dead man still alive, or is someone messing with them? Has there been some kind of double-cross? Or is the spirit of the dead witch from the ghost story making them pay for their sins?

I was very intrigued to find out the answer to these questions, and was thankful that the characters actually began to show emotion once there was some kind of immediate threat in play. Tears were even shed over the dead guy! People turn against each other, strangers discover their presence at the house, violence flares up, characters start getting knocked off, and my only issue there was that some of these folks weren't killed off earlier.

Overall, I found Blood Money to be a very middle-of-the-road sort of movie. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad, and when you take into account the fact that it was shot on a low budget over the course of two weeks, it's very impressive on a technical level. The movie looks great, and in that way Luke and Ed White show a lot of promise. It will be interesting to see where they go from here.

The biggest problem is how the characters come across. They're not interesting, they're not likeable, they don't react to things in a relatable way. The fact that I didn't care about a single one of them and didn't understand the way they were acting definitely hindered my enjoyment of the film in a big way. If there had been some tweaks here and there, Blood Money could have been a much better and more entertaining film. As it is, I'd give it maybe a 6/10.

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