In “Blood and Money,” Tom Berenger of “Platoon” fame and star of many movies about military snipers, is a central-casting choice to play Jim Reed, a Vietnam vet and ex-Marine out deer hunting in the Allagash, an area of the gargantuan North Maine Woods.
Jim’s got the kind of excellent, tricked-out, man-cave camper rig that’ll get outdoorsmen hot and bothered. He has a week to bag the buck he’s forever yearning for, sort of like a forest-y transcription of “Moby Dick.”
Only thing is, like unto his vehicle with its excess of 100,000 miles, Jim’s way past his prime. He wheezes a lot and coughs up blood fairly often. Way too often, actually. Maybe it’s supposed to remind us of the movie’s title.
Jim’s a loner, and tough, and likes it that way. The only people he talks to are park rangers (the Allagash area is so remote that manned checkpoints are needed to keep track of people coming and going) and Debbie (Kristen Hager), a fetching, young, blond waitress at his trusty breakfast diner.
Debbie confides in Jim about wanting to ditch her abusive hubby, George (Jimmy LeBlanc), and take the kids. Jim listens because Debbie reminds him of his deceased daughter.
Jim also attends AA meetings, and now you can guess why his daughter died. Jim’s also got a son; they don’t talk. Jim’s a bit messed up, and while the movie doesn’t overtly state why Jim must bag that buck, this is probably the source of the obsession—mop up the inner pain via the hunting hobby.
We soon hear, via radios and TVs, about a nearby casino being robbed by five hoodlums who stole 1.2 million dollars. Several people were killed, but the robbers escaped.
What are the chances that ex-military man Jim will bump up against the despicable robber-scum? You know. Jim, winging a shot at a fleeting image of what looks to be a buck disappearing behind a Douglas fir in the deep woods, discovers to his horror that he’s clipped an attractive young woman.
Before she dies, she lays a rather chilling curse on him. Then, he notices the big bag of bucks nearby. Jim wanted to bag a buck. Now he’s bagged 1.2 million bucks in a bag. Be careful what you wish for.
Should Jim abscond with the bountiful bucks? It’s a popular movie theme; 2007’s “No Country for Old Men” comes immediately to mind. But “Old Men” was a riveting movie that bagged four Oscars and four additional nominations, and while the Maine Woods is really no country for old men, we get endless footage of old Jim painfully wheezing through the snow and doing cliché things like burning some of that $1.2 million to survive.
Blood, Money, and Uncut Gems
“Blood and Money” has a lot in common with Adam Sandler’s recent “Uncut Gems.” In that film, Sandler’s character is involved in putting out multiple fires, all of which he himself started. This creates an endless amount of stress not only for his character but also for the audience, because one is forced to care about a character who’s not really likable and whose uninterrupted greed constantly calls down immediate karmic retribution upon his head, which you are then also forced to be seriously annoyed by.
Berenger’s character, hanging on to similar greed, gets himself entangled in a nonstop series of fumbling “Doh!” moments. He runs out of ammo twice (he’s shooting bad guys who’ve inevitably come after him for their bucks), falls in the river, coughs up more blood—all of which cause him pain, but you don’t want to care or share in his pain (or stupidity). And so you say “Ugh!” and palm your forehead as you’re force-fed Jim’s doddering misery, and feeling like you want to hit the Eject button.
But if you’re me, you remember that reviewing bad movies is a good job and remind yourself that while Jim has Maine Woods-sized problems, you have first-world problems, and you’ve learned, into the bargain, that you’ll never go hunting by yourself in the Allagash. But you knew that already. You can never get this time back. But you’ll bag a few bucks for busting this bad movie so that others might avoid sharing in Jim’s greedy, miserable, karmic retribution.
‘Blood and Money’
Director: John Barr
Starring: Tom Berenger, Kristen Hager, Mark Sivertsen, Paul Ben-Victor, Jimmy LeBlanc, Bates Wilder, Brian Duffy, Erica McDermott
Rated: Not rated
Running Time: 1 hour, 29 minutes
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Rated: 2.5 stars out of 5