Director: Mark H. Young
Cast: Abigail Breslin, Sean Bean, James Purefoy, Alexa Vega, Jake Busey, Lew Temple
Plot: Hannah (Breslin) is a bright girl, trapped in a downward spiral in her uncles’ drug empire. She begins to see a way out, but she needs to fight fire with fire to achieve it.
When I began looking into script-writing as a hobby, a friend came to me with a story idea that he wanted me to try and convert into a script for him. He reeled off plot point after plot point, twist after twist, and the awesome ending he came up with. After listening, I stopped him and told him that, while his story was well thought out, he had focused so closely on the plot that his characters were non-existent. They weren’t characters, they were ‘the brother’, ‘the local drug dealer’ and ‘the other brother’. A good story is all well and good, but without characters, it cannot work as a movie. This is the way I feel about Bad Blood.
I almost didn’t include this under B-Movie Wednesday. When I have enough money to rent a new release, I tend to do that, as it keeps my reviews fresh. This movie looked pretty awesome with three good lead actors: Abigail Breslin, best known for one of the more talented child actors and Brit heroes, popular on American TV, Sean Bean and James Purefoy. It talked a good talk, with an action-packed cover and a plot summary that made it sound like an intriguing crime thriller. It looked so good that I didn’t believe it was a B-Movie. However, there isn’t a single whisper of it online, not even a Wikipedia account; the only place that confirms its existence is iTunes, IMBD and now, the Oracle of Film (you’re welcome). It is straight-to-DVD, so it counts as B-Movie Wednesday material for this blog. I rented it and watched it, hoping I had stumbled across a hidden gem. The movie is about this likeable girl, Hannah, who lives with her Uncle, who cooks up drugs for her other, more dangerous uncle, Sean Bean, the local kingpin. Everyone is terrified of Sean Bean and tries to just keep their heads down, although Hannah cannot convince her uncle to stop cooking for Sean Bean and leave town. Then, Breslin’s sister falls in love with one of Sean Bean’s customers, a surprisingly charming Speed distributor, played by James Purefoy. Breslin realises that Purefoy might be the ideal weapon to ruin Sean Bean’s empire and force her uncle to try his luck outside of town.
You can already probably tell what I mean about an emphasis on story over character, and this is before I have even got to certain plot twist and shocking story developments. Don’t get me wrong, I like the story, but weak direction and an uneven script meant that I couldn’t really connect with any of the characters. I assumed that Abigail Breslin would become this clever mastermind figure, my guess goaded on by the constant reminder of the chess symbolism that is thrown in our faces at every turn. As plot points and new faces are introduced, you are waiting for that moment when Breslin shows her true hand and in, Ocean Eleven’s style, reveals that she has been playing everyone for fools. However, it soon becomes clear that she doesn’t really have anything up her sleeve. Sure, she is smart and she does outwit all of the bad guys by the end, but her smarts come from sharp reflexes, rather than the chess master figure that the director was trying to set us up to seeing her as. For the first half of the movie, it seems that she is trying to provoke a reaction from her surrounding acquaintances, rather than kicking off any master plan. I wager there was a bigger motive at play, but the writer didn’t make it clear enough and that was what made the movie suffer.
It wasn’t even the actors’ fault. They tried their best. Abigail Breslin relished the chance of playing a hero, rather than a child figure. Sean Bean, while he has little to do, other than look menacing, does that very well. With the lack of depth in any of the characters, I admired the fact that each actor tried their hardest to inject life into them. Alexa Vega plays Breslin’s sister and the writers see her as a narrative device to kick off the rivalries between Purefoy and Bean. Vega, wanting to be more than a pretty face in a forgettable action flick, conveys what she thinks her character, Amber, should be. Amber struck me as a girl so fed up of living under the shadow of her uncle that she tries to hide from the criminal world. Breslin wants to run, Vega hides; symbolic polar opposites as sisters, if you will. When Purefoy admits that he has secrets, she buries her head in the sand. Ignorance keeps their love alive and you kind of sympathise with the character for being dealt such an awful hand. The relationship between Purefoy and Vega is also an example of the actors taking it upon themselves to convey the story. You keep wanting the two of them to get a scene, where their love really stood out, but it never came. The only reason the couple were cute together at all was because Vega and Purefoy had to act their asses off to get the idea to break through weak writing.
When the movie begins wrapping itself up, it is watchable enough. The nastiest character gets his comeuppance and there is a token shoot-out to make the wait worth our while. The action is a little ropey, but it works as a climax in a straight-to-DVD thriller. It is the epilogue that wound me up. When the bad guys are all dead, there is a quick montage showing us how everyone ended up. Their path from that fight to a month or so down the line is not explained. A twist is totally ignored and the audience has to imagine how the characters worked their way around that major development. It isn’t even hard to have a final scene wrapping that plot point up; it is just lazy on H. Young’s part.
Final Verdict: Well-acted, but Bad Blood won’t stick too long in anyone’s memory. The characters needed far more development for us to care.