Mel Gibson! Even a mention of his name is enough to divide cinema lovers around the world. You have some people who have blacklisted him – they don’t want to watch anything he is involved with because in their eyes he committed an unforgivable sin. Then on the flipside you have some film fans who have to the conclusion that Gibson, as both an actor and a director, has created some of his best work after being ‘unofficially’ made untouchable in Hollywood.
Love him or hate him Gibson (Braveheart) is back on the big screen this time playing retired and terminally ill cop Ray in the brand new crime thriller Force Of Nature. Gibson though isn’t the centre-piece of this film, far from it actually. No, that role is filled by Emile Hirsch (Into The Wild) who plays Cardillo, a disenchanted Police Officer who moved to South America after a tragic workplace accident that he has never been able to recover from.
Cardillo uses the excuse that he doesn’t speak Spanish to ensure that he is kept behind a desk as he can’t ‘trust’ himself back out on the street again. That all changes though when a hurricane bears down on the city where he is stationed and his boss orders him onto the street alongside the ambitious Jess (Stephanie Cayo – Yucatan) who tells him that all they have to do his help people evacuate. That plan goes to hell though when they are called out to a disturbance that soon sees them arrive at the condo building where residents including Ray and his daughter, Troy (Kate Bosworth – Blue Crush), are refusing to evacuate – but that becomes the least of their worries with the arrival of ruthless criminal John The Baptist (David Zayas – Skyline) who knows a secret about the building – a secret that he is willing to kill for.
Okay, let’s be honest Force Of Nature is a ‘dumb’ film. It is the kind of film that you can watch and completely tune out of without having to think too much… and there is nothing wrong with that. Yes, the screenwriter, Cory Miller (Just One Look) tries too hard to make this a serious film by putting in stories that trace back to Nazi Germany, but somehow the director, Michael Polish (Northfork), salvages the film and makes it watchable.
Polish makes the condo building feel like a claustrophobic tomb and somehow uses ridiculous plot elements, which include a giant, ferocious, man-earitng cat in an apartment, work. He knows that deep down at the core of this film there is a basic story. A cop seeking redemption has to save the day against the bad guys. Somehow, Polish pushes all the most ridiculous things about the film to the side and makes this a simple shoot em’ up where the audience wants to see Ray win the day and get the girl – it doesn’t matter if it is Jess or Troy… he just needs to get the girl.
Polish’s aim is made even easier by the fact that Hirsch brings his A-Game as he slips into the boots of Cardillo. Hirsch makes Ray likable and someone obviously forgot to tell him that this is a dumb B-Grade movie because between falling off balconies, shooting bad guys and scaling the sides of his buildings he manages to put in some moments of great acting that have no right being in a movie like this. The same can’t be said about Gibson though who coughs and wheezes his way through his role with one of the most unconvincing coughs in cinematic history… a surprise given what an amazing actor Gibson usually is.
Force Of Nature is nowhere close to an award winner, but if you are looking for a straight-forward action thriller that isn’t going to make you think too much – then it is perfect. Polish’s slick directing gives the film the feel a TV show like Miami Vice while the screenplay is overly-ambitious but works when it needs to. It’s a wild and often wet (thanks to the hurricane) ride but it certainly won’t leave you bored.