Gina Carano's In The Blood
Action star and female MMA legend Gina Carano is back in her latest screen venture, In The Blood. The film marks her first feature since Fast & Furious 6 and her first lead since Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire. On the latter subject, this story and theme takes her back to the tough, no-holds-barred role she delivered so well in earlier work and, again, promises a setup which promptly lets her off the leash to brutally punish the bad guys!
In the story, Ava (Carano) is a newlywed with a dark past who flies off the rails when her husband (Cam Gigandet) goes missing during their Caribbean honeymoon. With no help from the police or locals, she sets off on her own mission to save him and take down the men responsible.
Let’s be clear: this doesn't reinvent the wheel (which is fine) but, for me, the interesting point is the role reversal. Instead of the tough male saving his damsel in distress, Ava is our tough, capable and physically trained heroine saving her husband. It’s a very refreshing switch and works extremely well, especially in capitalising on the vengeance against these gangsters who don’t see her coming and cannot believe what happens next. We all know what Gina can do.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film and it was good to see Carano back and delivering beatdowns in classic fashion. I have always been a fan of tough female characters and, for any genre fan, female action stars are even better. An action actress who can both play it tough and deliver the fighting goods is the winning formula. Plus, there is absolutely no doubt Gina would take these men apart.
However, despite its many positives, the film does have a few problems which, frustratingly, drag it down a notch. The performances are good for the most part but jarringly weak in other places, as though certain lines or scenes were delivered very fast and a quick take was deemed ‘good enough’ to save on time. It’s a shame and lets the drama down at these points. In the future, it’s definitely worth spending more time getting the action-drama balance more on point.
It was great to see Gina in this kind of role again and playing the unconventional hero. The film features a few cameo-style supporting roles, including Danny Trejo, Stephen Lang and Treat Williams, who are all on good form but don’t get much screen time. Luis Guzman has a solid supporting role and he is someone I always enjoy seeing on screen.
To reference the biggest shortcoming, I was most surprised to see much of the action reduced to quick, illegible cuts – both overly edited and shot from strange angles. I watched this closely and, in my view, it doesn’t appear to be any fault of stunt coordinator Ben Bray (Out of the Furnace) as the choreo, when seen, looks good and capitalises on Gina’s kicks, takedowns and submissions. But, sadly, these aren’t captured in a clean fashion. One of the most refreshing elements in Haywire was that the fights were shot in a nice, wide frame and the movements could be appreciated. Nothing fancy or over-the-top, but it adopted the old Hong Kong method of standing back and letting the actors perform. Unfortunately, those hoping to see Gina kicking ass here may need hit the rewind button a few times from missing these moments. It’s a shame when you have a capable star and the action has no need to be choppy. Director John Stockwell does a competent job for the most part, it’s just sad to see the action suffer, especially in an action piece. Other than this, the film features some decent shootouts, car chases and physical stunts which keep the excitement varied. It should be noted that the film isn’t wall-to-wall action but more of an action drama, peppered with violence and tension (and it is very tense).
Overall, I enjoyed the film and felt, as a production, it gained a great deal from its Puerto Rican setting. This gave a life, look and visual scope which set it far apart from countless other DTV titles. Heavily featuring real Puerto Rican locals also gave an organic feel which served the claustrophobia and tension of the story very well as Ava fights to survive, save her husband and make her escape.
Despite some shortcomings, In The Blood is a solid action drama and exceeds the expectations of most indie action flicks. It was great to see Gina Carano back in this type of role and I hope we see more from her in this department very soon.
In The Blood is out now on Blu-ray and DVD from Signature Entertainment.