Starring Gina Carano, Luis Guzman, Stephen Lang, Danny Trejo, Amaury Nolasco, Cam Gigandet, Treat Williams, Ismael Cruz Cordova
Fight Choreography by Ben Bray
Directed by John Stockwell
American films have been looking for “the next big thing” for a while, particularly in the world of martial arts films. As MMA is the popular martial art in the US, it only makes sense that a star might come from those ranks. Gina Carano appears to have it all: she’s a successful fighter with a built-in fan base, she has model looks, and a good personality. The intangibles are whether she can act ( that can be developed. Just look at JCVD) and whether she has that “something”. I first saw her in Blood and Bone, and she looked great onscreen. Then she did Haywire, and now comes back with this film, and she’s looking like she getting the hang of things.
In The Blood stars Carano as Ava, a young woman who is getting married to Derek Grant (Gigandet), a man who comes from a wealthy family. Ava was raised by her father Casey (Lang, in a VERY short role) and taught how to fight. Casey was an outlaw, and raised Ava with his warped principles. One night he is killed by some former “associates” and in turn young Ava kills them. Somehow Ava isn’t caught, but it caused her to spiral into drugs. It’s at a narcotics anonymous meeting that she meets Derek, and once they are married, against the wishes of his father Robert (Williams) they take off on their honeymoon in the Carribean islands. While there they meet Manny (), a young man who lives on the island and knows where to go for a good time. Ava and Derek form a rapport with Manny immediately, and they take off to a club on the island owned by Big Biz (Trejo) and afterward they go zip-lining. During a particular zip line, Derek falls, and is injured, but after he is loaded in an ambulance, the ambulance, with Derek disappears. Ava desperately searches for Derek, but must deal with an uncaring police chief (Guzman) and finds herself descending deeper into the dark heart of the island, where corruption, drugs, money and guns are the weapons of choice, and Ava must turn into the daughter Casey raised her to be if she expects to find her husband or avenge his death…
The story here gets off to a slow start, and seems stilted, particularly in the early scenes with Carano and Gigandet as they are shown doing all the lovey-dovey stuff, but after Derek disappears, the film kicks into high gear as an action thriller. Carano is sure handed in her action scenes and her general bad-assness, but she comes off really flat during the vacation scenes. She just doesn’t quite look comfortable yet with quiet, “nice” scenes. However, when ass-kicking or intimidation is called for, she’s great. Luis Guzman (Traffic, The Land Stand) is great as the chief who may not be what he seems, and Danny Trejo (Machete) is great to see as Big Biz, but I wish he had been in the film more. The same could easily be said for Stephen Lang (Avatar, Tombstone) who is absolutely terrifying as Casey (in a good way). Ismael Cruz Cordova does a great job as Manny, a young man who is more than what he appears to be, and Amaury Nolasco (Transformers, Justified) is great as the drug dealer Silvio who runs the island. I won’t say anything more as the story has a pretty good twist toward the end that changes things for Ava. Once again, just like Haywire, Carano is surrounded by excellent talent. Director John Stockwell (Into the Blue, Blue Crush, Turistas) does a good job shooting the film, for the most part. I thought the somewhat digital look gave the film more immediacy as things get more hellish.
The fights are okay, but I’m still not entirely convinced that traditional MMA can work in film. I think a hybrid version, like what Donnie Yen has done with Special ID, Flashpoint, and Killzone works best, but what is on display here is pretty decent. I had some issues with the fights are they came close to becoming the Bourne “shaky cam” fights, but avoided it for the most part. The gunplay was actually good here, and Gina looked convincing as she blasts quite a few bad men into oblivion.
Kiai-Kick’s Grade: 8
In The Blood is a tense action thriller that proves that Gina Carano is here to stay as she tears her way across the Caribbean in a film full of action, suspense, and danger. I had a lot of fun with this.
The film released today in theaters, on demand, and on iTunes.