Firstly, credit where credit is due. In his 5 Live review of the knuckle-headed revenge romp Faster (George Tillman Jr, 2010) Mark Kermode devised a brilliant new method of synopsis, particularly useful when outlining action films. His innovation? To summarize a film’s story using just the plot keywords from its IMDB page. Honestly, it’s incredibly effective, and let me use Blood Out, the utterly inept directorial debut of Jason Hewitt, as further proof. The keywords for this film are: Estranged Brother. Gang. Murder. Undercover Cop. Revenge. Fight To The Death. If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu, don’t worry – we’ve been here before.
Yep, it’s familiar territory alright, but Hewitt’s handling of this material is basic at best, and displays little in the way of ingenuity or flair. His screenplay (co-written by John A. O’Connell) is flat and derivative, but that’s not necessarily the grounds for a bad film – slavish devotion to formula can sometimes result in diverting entertainment, so long as there are characters and situations the audience can get behind. But the characters here are entirely two-dimensional, and their arcs unbelievably realised. Savion’s (Luke Goss) transition from honest lawman to violent thug is literally non-existent, and Hewitt never pauses for thought so that his characters can experience emotions. His lead character is driven by convention rather than feeling, and I began to wonder whether the film was only really concerned with sex and violence.
For example, there’s the obligatory lesbian dominatrix scene. Why? Because it’s a chestnut crime movie cliché, and all movie gangsters love to watch some lesbian domination between working hours. For the record, when are working hours? We’re never privy to them. How gangsters manage to organize drug pushing operations in B-movies is beyond me, as they seem to spend most of their time engaging in the kind of misogynistic leering that I thought was in bad taste even when the 70’s did it.
The violence is disturbingly distanced from reality too. The film seems to acknowledge that the path of revenge is wrong, and killing won’t resolve Savion’s rage, but the camera enjoys getting all close-up and involved with the bloody fist fights anyway. Particularly worrying is the oozing stylization of the accidental killing of a young girl, and an over-the-top car crash involving a pregnant woman.
But to even get worked up about any of this you’ll first have to adjust your eyes to the film’s aggressively ugly aesthetic. Hewitt’s camerawork is persistently unfocused, drifting between frenzied shaky-cam in the action scenes (disorienting the viewer and affecting geographical coherency) and simplistic shot-reverse-shot during dialogue. Is he under contract to make the most banally unimaginative film possible? Incidentally, most of this is very hard to make out due to the muddy cinematography, consisting of various shades of green, black and grey. I think DP Christian Herrera was asleep through the majority of shooting, or at least he should claim to have been – he can at least retain some dignity that way.
And then there’s the acting. It’s astonishingly bad. Val Kilmer continues his valiant quest to shit all over the opportunities that directors like Oliver Stone (The Doors, 1991) and George P. Cosmatos (Tombstone, 1993) afforded him in the early 90’s, and largely succeeds in choking the viewer with the stench of a rotten ham. He was once an actor who demanded respect (often dubbed the next Brando), but now he’s just cashing paychecks behind a mask of shame. Vinnie Jones is the only ‘actor’ to come out of the film with any pride intact; at least the ex-footballer never had any talent to misplace. His cockney tough-guy act has long outstayed its welcome, but it proves mildly amusing here. At least you can recognize it as a performance. Goss appears as ineffectual as the furniture, putting on a laughable scowl to pay the rent.
But perhaps all you need know about Blood Out is this: 50 Cent serves as a producer on the film, and he’s also selected himself a plum acting role as an offensively negligent and crooked detective who, instead of helping Savion with his case, decides to beat him to a pulp and lock him in the washroom. Naturally, Blood Out should be avoided at all costs. Not even cine-masochists need apply here; you’ll want to purge yourselves afterwards.
Honestly, not even a Blu-Ray transfer can hide the ugliness of this movie; the palette consists of muddy greys and blacks, and if you absolutely have to buy it (DON’T!) then DVD is the cheaper and more advisable format. The disc bears no extras, presumably because everybody involved is too embarrassed by their involvement – especially Val Kilmer, whose career suicide is one of the most depressing in recent memory.
Blood Out is out on DVD 26th September 2011.
Director: Jason Hewitt
Writers: Jason Hewitt, John A. O’Connell
Stars: Luke Goss, Val Kilmer, 50 Cent
Runtime: 90 min