Force of Nature (2020) Review!!!

Synopsis – A gang of thieves plan a heist during a hurricane and encounter trouble when a cop tries to force everyone in the building to evacuate.

My Take – With the release of his Oscar nominated 2016 directorial, Hacksaw Ridge, it actually seemed like Mel Gibson, a one-time Hollywood idol, would be back in the spotlight, unfortunately his history of antisemitism and racism remarks, and accusations of domestic violence, made sure big studios steered away from casting him, with Daddy’s Home 2 (2017) being the only wide release he has had since Edge of Darkness (2010). However, despite the lack of spotlight, Gibson has been staying busy on the Indie front by appearing thrillers like Get the Gringo, Blood Father, and Dragged Across Concrete, to moderate success.

Hence, it seemed interesting that he would be next starring in a film which aptly sold itself as Die Hard in a hurricane, after all 2018’s The Hurricane Heist taught us, hurricanes always make the best times for daring daylight robberies, as locations have been evacuated, security is low, and risk of death by mother nature is only of mild concern, hereby giving the 64 year old actor to step up and becomes the badass we know.

Unfortunately for Gibson fans he is more of a supporting character here, a crotchety old bastard who is generally rude to people, but that shouldn’t matter in the end as this Michael Polish directed film is quite terrible and politically incorrect.

Though the general plot plays out like any typical 90s action film, in current times, the Puerto Rico setting and the casting of two white actors (that too cops) fighting a Latino gang has stirred up plenty of distaste for the film on social media, with Twitter users pointing out the unsavory pasts of the leads off screen (Emile Hirsch was charged with assaulting a female film executive in 2015).

In my opinion, director Michael Polish, who has history of helming largely unheard and forgettable features, signed on to this one for the paycheck, got his very talented yet highly underrated actress wife Kate Bosworth to sign up as well to provide some validity to the project, and then ended up putting limited effort to screenwriter Cory Miller‘s feeble script, that doesn’t come up with imaginative ways to deal with cops and crooks.

Making this one a bland work all over, which is unable to conjure any level of excitement necessary for a familiar close-quarters crisis film.

The story follows Cardillo (Emile Hirsch), a troubled cop, who has now been reinstated as a desk-jockey cop in San Juan, Puerto Rico. However with Category 5 hurricane bearing down on the city, Cardillo is forcefully sent into the field with an enthusiastic new partner named Jess (Stephanie Cayo) to search for residents who are refusing to leave their home. On the way, they intercept a local disturbance, pick a man named Griffin (William Catlett), and decide to escort him back to his apartment building.

But things go rapidly south when John the Baptist (David Zayas), a ruthless criminal mastermind and at least a half-dozen heavily armed gunmen storm the same complex in search of one of the older residents named Bergkamp (Jorge Luis Ramos), who apparently has millions of dollars of worth secret treasure stored away. With John ordering to kill anyone and everyone on site, Cardillo and Jess see themselves partner with a doctor named Troy (Kate Bosworth), and her father Ray (Mel Gibson), an old school ex-cop, to stop the criminals, if they want any hope of escaping.

As one can guess, the predictable plot gets mired in one predictable shootout sequence after another, leading up to a supposed big twist in the climactic battle we can see coming two scenes in advance. The only good thing I can honestly point out is that director Michael Polish keeps the pedal for most of the 91 minutes run time, pausing only to take dump a ridiculous amount of backstory on the viewer, who learn more about Cardillo’s haunted past, Ray’s fear of hospitals, Troy’s fear of her father, Pena’s police ambitions, Griffith’s history with racial profiling, and Paul’s connection to Germany’s bleak past, all taking place the moment one of them sustains a pretty serious wound, winces as he’s patched up and shares an intimate anecdote from his personal life which explains why he is where he is today.

To make matters worse, in order to make things while dealing with the dullness of a nondescript apartment complex as a setting, the film adds a romance to plot by having Cardillo and Troy fall in love in the middle of a hurricane as they are chased by heavily armed criminals, which comes out as pure absurd.

Despite the setting, the film is just paint-by-numbers filled hit/miss one-liners, with everybody attached to the project seemingly unbothered to put in more than the minimal effort.

Though Mel Gibson puts in an effective performance, and confirms that he still has the ability to command the screen, his casting as the kind of manic, violence-prone cop for which he was once known for playing speaks to the film’s defiantly conservative politics, its will to return to a cinematic era when violent white cops were viewed as good cops. But also having Gibson’s Ray toss out homophobic slurs almost turns this insipid action flick into a statement about Gibson himself, as if the actor’s own record of making such remarks should be viewed as the charmingly impolitic outbursts of an old-fashioned geezer.

Making matters worse for him, his character Ray plays second fiddle to Emile Hirsch’s central protagonist, and frankly Hirsch just looks lost here, mainly as it difficult to buy into him as seasoned hard-ass. While the gorgeous Stephanie Cayo gets to pull in some heavy duty of her and proves that she has a significant magnetism, on the other hand Kate Bosworth is undeservingly miscast here.

In other roles, David Zayas brings a good antagonizing presence while William Catlett and Jorge Luis Ramos are just alright. Michael Polish even cast his daughter, Jasper Polish, in a small role, which is too insignificant to even comment about. On the whole, ‘Force of Nature’ is an absurd action thriller that is as generic and predictable as a heist flick can get.

Directed – Michael Polish

Starring – Emile Hirsch, Mel Gibson, David Zayas

Rated – R

Run Time – 91 minutes

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