#REVIEW: “FORCE OF NATURE”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
When I was much younger, I loved watching Mel Gibson movies with my Dad. He was one of his favourite actors and the Lethal Weapon films were in constant rotation in our VCR. It is these fond memories that really put me at odds with what we know now about who Gibson is when he is not in front of the camera. And those feelings were exactly why I decided to give his newest film, Force of Nature, a chance. The Film revolves around a group of art thieves trying to steal paintings from a Puerto Rican apartment complex during deadly Hurricane Maria. What they did not expect to face was Police Officer Cardillo (Emile Hirsch), his partner Jess Peña (Stephanie Cayo) and a grizzled ex-cop named Ray (Gibson).
After some brief set-up, the remainder of Force of Nature’s 91-minute running time is spent within the apartment complex. Director Michael Polish uses this to his advantage, shooting each scene in increasingly claustrophobic, water soaked hallways and living rooms. It makes for some thrilling moments, punctuated by Kubilay Uner’s tense Score. You can really feel the sense of encroaching dread, and Polish manages to keep the Film relentlessly-paced, pausing only for brief moments before jumping right back into the action. The one knockdown fight scene is so harrowing and bone crunching that he uses portions of it to open the Film before slamming right back into it halfway through.
But as a whole, Force of Nature is a disjointed mess. The Film is edited in a way that ignores continuity and seems to jump around erratically. Polish does not necessarily leave room for plot holes so much as he tends to leave out required information to explain character movements and their spatial relation to each other. Worse, character motivations and backstories just seem to drop in at random and have virtually no effect on the Film. There is a moment that feels ripped from the headlines involving William Catlett’s Griffin describing his experience with police brutality – but it comes out of nowhere, and seems designed to vaguely explain a plot point that barely pays-off. There are plenty of other subplots, one involving a Nazi and another involving a budding romance between Cardillo and Ray’s doctor daughter Troy (Kate Bosworth), but none of them feel properly fleshed out in the least and barely develop any of the characters.
While some of the dialogue and delivery leave a lot to be desired, the Cast is fine for the most part. Hirsch has a bit too much fun being a charmless wise-ass in the vein of John McClane, and David Zayas has a blast hamming it up as lead villain John the Baptist (a name I wish was explained significantly better). However, the most disappointing element of the entire Film is Gibson. His character is an old, weathered and terminally-ill shell of his former self. Gibson looks and acts the part (even adding in an endless stream of coughs), but he has no inflection, no charisma and no edge. I kept waiting for shades of the old Mel to show, but all I got was a performance that was the very definition of phoning it in. It makes you forget about anything worthwhile in Force of Nature, and just make you long for those old Gibson Bangers – before we knew who he really is.
Lionsgate release FORCE OF NATURE on Digital, On-Demand and DVD on Tuesday, June 30, 2020.