If you’re looking for a no-nonsense, edge-of-your-seat thriller that favors characters over mindless action, then look no further than John Barr’s Blood and Money. There’s little fat on this lean, mean, bloody-rare buck steak. It may not reinvent the wheel, nor does it try to.
The film is set in the vast, frozen wilderness of Northern Maine. The title card informs us that there are no paved roads, no towns – unless you call Allagash, home of aging buck hunter Jim Reed (Tom Berenger), a town. Jim misses his son, whom he hasn’t seen in over a year. He lives in his makeshift RV, where he drinks and smokes all day. He coughs up blood and washes down his meds with milk.
One day, while hanging out with the distraught waitress Debbie (Kristen Hagger) at the local diner, Jim hears of a nearby casino robbery. Soon after, he accidentally shoots a young woman in the woods and recognizes her as one of the robbers. When he goes back to retrieve evidence from the murder scene, Jim decides to take the stolen money. A tense sequence of events ensues.
“…Jim decides to take the stolen money.”
After a slow-burn start, wherein the characters are introduced, Blood and Money kicks into high gear. Barr, who also wrote and shot the film, knows his way around intense atmosphere and fraught moments. An encounter with a provincial but observant guard will have you on the edge of your seat, as will the one with a cop at a gas station. The grisly fate of Debbie’s alcoholic husband George (Jimmy LeBlanc) resonates, as does the image of a burning RV amidst the blinding snow.
Berenger, the stalwart that he is, holds the film together in an introverted, can’t-take-your-eyes-off-him performance. His Jim is weighed down by years of isolation and regret, his only goal to “get out there and bag my buck.” What’s driving this man to choose money over human life? Why won’t he admit he may be terminally ill? Barr wisely doesn’t over-explain his anti-hero’s motivations, leaving the audience to draw their own conclusions.
The filmmaker beautifully captures the blistering cold of Maine, as well as its claustrophobic isolation. However, the film isn’t perfect. There are some inconsistencies and difficult-to-buy scenes. It could’ve also used a dash of humor to liven up the proceedings, and a sharper title.
It may not quite reach the heights of Fargo, but if you enjoyed Cold Pursuit or the inferior-but-similar Daughter of the Wolf, then Blood and Money will be right up your dirt road.
"…it may not reinvent the wheel, nor does it try to."