FORCE OF NATURE ½
2020, R, 91 mins.
Mel Gibson as Ray / Emile Hirsch as Cardillo / Kate Bosworth as Troy / David Zayas as John the Baptist / Stephanie Cayo as Jess / Tyler Jon Olson as Dillon / Rey Hernandez as Lt. CunninghamDirected by Michael Polish / Written by Cory Miller
Not to be confused with the late 90s Sandra Bullock/Ben Affleck romcom of nearly the same name, FORCE OF NATURE is a new action film of startling, almost mind numbing blandness. Very few genre films like this are a sure-fire cure insomnia...but this one fits the bill.
The $23 million
dollar, shot on location production has a premise as basic as it gets (a
series of dwellers try to evacuate a Puerto Rico apartment building during
a Category 5 hurricane while nefarious criminals also wreak havoc on the
inside) and bares some similarities to the equally awful THE
HURRICANE HEIST. Beyond
its nonsensically silly scripting, some awfully phoned in performances,
and a lack of creative ingenuity, what really makes FORCES OF NATURE all
the more thoroughly unwatchable is that it sets itself during the real
life Hurricane Maria, which killed nearly 5000 people.
Exploiting real life tragedy for a B-grade piece of cheaply made
exploitation fare like this is deplorable enough, but then the film adds on
some wholly unsavory white savior elements to the narrative (more on that
in a bit) to sour things further.
The fact that
FORCE OF NATURE was made with one extremely well known Hollywood icon and
a few more washed up, but also established actors is kind of shocking in
itself. It's the kind of bad
film where the thought of watching a documentary about the thought
processes of the players involved in deciding to partake in this
production would have been more engaging the resulting film itself.
Here's what you need to know:
Real life Hurricane Maria is about to dump itself in San Juan,
Puerto Rico, but before it ravages on the city a down on his luck and
deeply suicidal cop named Cardillo (played in one of his least convincing
performances by an all over the map Emile Hirsch) has been re-assigned
from routine desk duties and is ordered to help evacuate some local homes
in a timely and safe manor (yes, this piece of retrograde garbage
introduces us to Hirsch's "hero cop" as he tries to blow his
brains out in his bathtub). Cardillo
is teamed up with a young rookie super cop in the making in Pena
(Stephanie Cayo), and soon the pair are sent to a nearby apartment
building that's close to flooding in hopes of getting all of those that
are still stuck inside to get out as quickly as possible.
Cardillo and Pena, they both meet up with a cranky old coot ex-cop named
Ray (Mel Gibson), who's been sidelined with multiple health issues and has
all but turns away medical aid from his nurse/daughter, Troy (a never more
tired and disinterested looking Kate Bosworth), which frustrates her to no
end (that, and the cantankerous former law man refuses to leave his home). Faster than you can scream "MAD MAX," everyone is
dealt up an even greater threat than the rampaging hurricane outside with
the appearance of vile gangster John the Baptist (David Zayas), who has
appeared with his machine gun touting crew to search for a secret hidden
piece of treasure that resides within...and he's willing to murder just
about anyone that gets in his way. Predictably,
this springs Cardillo and Pena into action, and even more
predictably...and wouldn't ya know it...that wild eyed old codger in Ray
can still shoot a gun with the best of them, despite his horrendous state
of health. I mean...he's Mel Gibson, after all.
One of the more
frustratingly lazy things that director Michael Polish and writer Cory
Miller do with this cockamamie script is starting it in the future and
then flashing back to the past. How many more films am I going to have to endure that use
this tired plotting device? In
this flashforward we witness Cardillo violently grappling with a baddie
outside of the aforementioned apartment as monstrous rain and wind beats
down on both of them. We also
see Ray packing serious heat and trying to shoot said bad guy in the
process (good luck with that in near zero visibility).
After this, the film jumps back several hours to introduce us to
all of the players on both sides of the law before the storm hits.
FORCE OF NATURE benefits so little from using this framing device
that you have to wonder why Polish used it in the first place.
Not helping matters is the inclusion of some frankly head shaking
and inane subplots, like one involving an apartment dweller (William
Catlett), who early in the film is arrested for hoarding ridiculous
amounts of meat at a supply strapped grocery store.
We later find out that he was buying the meat for his
"pet," and by "pet" I mean a vicious wild animal that
could kill a man in seconds. Why this has been thrown into this film is anyone's guess.
The writing in
FORCE OF NATURE is about as clumsy and amateurish as it gets, so much so
that all we're really left with are the performances and the action set
pieces, both of which are laughably lacking.
Hirsch is never once credible as a Martin Riggs-like man of the law
with impulse control issues and a desire to end his life.
He's a strong actor when compelled to be, but a hard nosed cop role
doesn't fit him like a glove. Both
Kate Bosworth fares no better, as she frequently looks like she would
rather be in a whole other movie throughout most of this one.
The development of the main villain here is feebly handled, and
John the Baptist certainly is a physically imposing presence thanks to
Zayas, but he's so ill defined in terms of who he is,
where he came from, and why he's looking for that prized treasure in the
apartment. He's a one-note heist planning monster...and not much else.
And as for Gibson? He's really the only reason to watch this film on a level of
pure curiosity, and he seems to be the only performer here injecting some
personality into role.
and Hirsch's involvement here is one of the biggest sins of FORCE OF
NATURE. Here's a film set in
a foreign land featuring good guy white cops that are called to save the
day against villains of color...and all set during a fact based
environmental disaster that decimated a country and killed so many
countless innocent people. I
looked it up: 4645 Puerto Ricans died at the hands of Hurricane Maria. Those that didn't die went without food, water, electricity,
and other basic necessities for months.
The very thought of a Hollywood crew swooping into this same
country to make such an utterly disposable piece of brainless, retrograde
trash like this while using Hurricane Maria as a storyline backdrop is, in
my humble opinion, of dubious low taste and decency.
Added on to this sickening level of exploitation is the appearance
of Gibson as the Caucasian protagonist cop that tries to rescue and save
everyone from despotic Islanders. Considering
his own well publicized history with accused racism, his casting here
sticks out like a sore thumb and exacerbates all that's wrong with the
film. You know
what might have made FORCE OF NATURE more redeeming and interesting?
Make Gibson and Hirsch the villains and the Puerto Rican characters the
heroes. How hard would that have been?
Outside of this film being offensive to what I believe will be many, FORCE OF NATURE commits another indefensible misdeed of being crushingly dull. Polish has some fun with the various fist fights, gun battles, and foot chases here and there, but he seems hopelessly lost when it comes to basic spatial geography at times (that, and these moments are punctuated by a criminally stale music score that feels like it was cannibalized and pieced together from dozens of other uninspired scores from direct-to-video fare from yesteryear). I have nothing against films that try to use minimalist settings (look at the truly exceptional airline thriller 7500 from this past month as to how to do this right), but FORCE OF NATURE is so tired and lifeless in terms of innovation and execution that making it through its mercifully brief 90 minute runtime was a bit of a soul sucking chore for me. This film was supposed to release in cinemas, and - IRONY ALERT! - a real-life calamity in our current pandemic forced it to VOD. I paid seven bucks to watch this at home. That was seven bucks too much for me.