Saturday, May 18, 2024

“BLOOD FOR DUST”

THE STORY – Traveling salesman Cliff is drowning under the weight of providing for his family and finds himself on a dangerous path after a chance encounter with a colleague who has a dark past. Desperate to keep his fragile home life intact, Cliff agrees to partner with Ricky and run cocaine across Montana.

THE CAST – Scoot McNairy, Kit Harington, Josh Lucas & Stephen Dorff

THE TEAM – Rod Blackhurst (Director) & David Ebeltoft (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 98 Minutes


The crime genre has continued to be a fascinating landscape to explore. On the surface, there’s the general thrill of discovering a world of illicit activities that feels far removed from the one most normal people will ever touch. It’s a glimpse into the lives of people who reach beyond their means to strive for a life of rich prosperity, only for the actions and consequences to achieve such a status of grave fortune. It can be even more interesting when this environment of criminality is not depicted as glamorous work in exotic locations but as a grounded arena that possesses a relatability to those who find themselves desperate enough to turn to such extremes. “Blood for Dust” takes place right in the eye of this storm, resulting in a well-crafted and engaging thriller.

Set in the upper western region of the United States in the early 1990s, Cliff (Scoot McNairy) finds himself in a badly miscalculated disposition. He is currently employed as a traveling salesman hawking expensive medical supplies and is struggling under a heavy financial burden. Accusations of him stealing funds from another company, resulting in the death of an accomplice, have never gone away despite his efforts to hide it. His old friend Ricky (Kit Harington) proposes including him in a drug-running scheme, but Cliff refuses at first. However, when his dark history is revealed to more people, his situation worsens, and desperation is intensified. He accepts Ricky’s offer, only to find himself battling far more dangerous forces than he envisioned.

There is a strong aesthetic that director Rod Blackhurst manages to capture. The barren, open fields of the deserted landscapes add to the sense of isolation for these characters, both physically and mentally. The atmosphere is thick with tension, but as a low rumbling drifts, one slowly becomes more uneasy with an effective impact. Even the drab production design paints an authentic portrait of life in this particular time, which is period-specific, in a way that is not as easy to replicate through flamboyant choices. The filmmaking works in tandem with David Ebeltoft’s screenplay, fashioning a persistent sense of dread. Not all of the archetypes the film assembles are equally captivating, and many may find the presentation of the violence to be a lackluster affair. On the one hand, there is an appreciation for the more realistic portrayal that finds these bursts of carnage sloppy in a manner that a genuine person might respond. On the other, the execution can seem flat and take away from the immediate discomfort that was already building. Still, the narrative provides a sturdy foundation to become invested in this engrossing setting.

McNairy has always been a riveting performer, and he once again can portray the vulnerable everyman who finds himself drawn into a perilous position. It would be easy for this performance to essentially be nothing more than watered-down shades of a Walter White persona, but McNairy digs deep to find a more pathetic soul who is barely scraping by and jumps at this chance out of sheer frustration. The coldness in his eyes does not always manifest in methodical calculation, but the aura he exudes is endlessly compelling. Harington gets to show a more devilish side here. While not as bombastic as such a characterization could be, there is a menace he successfully communicates that keeps one on edge whenever he arrives on screen. The true villainy is saved for Josh Lucas, the man running the entire operation these men find themselves within. His presence comes with a pure sense of evil and intimidation, and Lucas plays the role with a threatening, potent, and powerful demeanor.

From a distance, there’s not much innovation from a storytelling perspective that “Blood for Dust” finds itself displaying. The film draws very familiar lines in its showcase of ordinary citizens thrust into a life of crime, and there are moments in which those recognizable hallmarks lead to more formulaic instances that are not that alluring. However, despite these instances and some underwhelming set pieces, there is an intriguing ambiance that surrounds this work. The tone perfectly establishes the sense of horror in a low-key manner that lingers all the way through, anchored by accomplished performances all around. Not every turn here will feel novel, but what is presented is a thoroughly enthralling endeavor.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The film is a tense crime thriller that effectively builds its atmosphere of dread in a compelling way. The aesthetics are nicely designed, and the performances are captivating.

THE BAD - Some of the characterizations are a tad broad, leaving the storytelling lacking innovation. The action set pieces are presented in a more realistic manner but can come across as flat in execution.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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Josh Parham
Josh Parhamhttps://nextbestpicture.com
I love movies so much I evidently hate them. Wants to run a production company.

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>The film is a tense crime thriller that effectively builds its atmosphere of dread in a compelling way. The aesthetics are nicely designed, and the performances are captivating.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Some of the characterizations are a tad broad, leaving the storytelling lacking innovation. The action set pieces are presented in a more realistic manner but can come across as flat in execution.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"BLOOD FOR DUST"