PLOT: A cop (Emile Hirsch) trying to evacuate an apartment building in San Juan during a hurricane not only has to deal with a cantankerous ex-cop (Mel Gibson) who refuses to budge and his daughter (Kate Bosworth), but also a brutal gang of art thieves looking for priceless art-work stored in the building.
REVIEW: For those not in the know, Grindstone is Lionsgate’s VOD subsidiary, and typically, they specialize in B-grade action flicks, frequently produced by Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films, and usually featuring folks like Bruce Willis, John Cusack or Nicolas Cage in supporting roles. These movies are often sold like star vehicles, but make no mistake – they’re small-to-medium-sized roles at best, where they probably get paid handsomely for a few days of shooting, I suppose one can now add Mel Gibson to their ranks in a role that probably was meant for Willis at some point.
Luckily, FORCE OF NATURE isn’t as awful as some of the other action flicks this company has put out thanks to efficient, unpretentious helming by Michael Polish, formerly of indie filmmaking duo The Polish Brothers, and a better than average cast led by Emile Hirsch. That’s right folks, despite the trailers and the poster emphasizing Gibson, this is Hirsch’s movie all the way, with him playing a typically tormented cop (who accidentally killed his partner/girlfriend in the line of duty). While an admirable change of pace, Hirsch has a boyish quality that makes him unconvincing in action hero mode, although Polish uses this to the movie’s advantage as he’s not set up to particularly tough. This gives his character a solid underdog quality that’s more effective than it would have been had the lead instead be a second or third-string action star although, to be sure, he still feels miscast.
Kate Bosworth (Polish’s real-life wife) is a stronger-than-usual presence as the obligatory love interest, a doctor trying to evacuate her stubborn dad, although her and Hirsch don’t have especially strong chemistry (she’s too cool and sophisticated while he comes off as a bit of a frat boy). What distinguishes FORCE OF NATURE from the usual Grindstone B-flick is, of course, Gibson, who goes all-in despite limited screentime. Playing a cop on dialysis, Gibson, sporting regular-joe working-stiff accent, seems to be having a whale of a time playing the politically incorrect anti-hero. The downside is he’s so good, and his chemistry is so solid with Stephanie Cayo (playing Hirsch’s partner), that you wish the two of them were carrying the movie rather than Hirsch and Bosworth.
Gibson plays a variation on Riggs here and mixes it up a little in the action scenes, with him popping a couple of oxy’s early-on to explain how a guy needing dialysis can get around so well. It’s a shame that he’s only maybe got a good 20-30 minutes of screen time as when he’s off-screen, the movie grinds to a halt and never really regains its momentum.
It’s pretty clear that the budget is limited despite on-location shooting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ninety-percent of the film is set in a rain-soaked apartment building, and the budget limitation really becomes apparent when a character says “I’m gonna rock you like a hurricane” but then, instead of cutting to the classic track by Scorpions, they cut to a cheap sound-a-like. Boo. The villains are also laughably cartoonish, with the main baddie (hilariously named John the Baptist) played by David Zayas, being one of those dumb ones who executes his own men willy-nilly. William Catlett (who’s got a great movie coming out soon called CHARM CITY KINGS) is fun as one of Gibson’s cop-hating neighbors, who’s desperate to get back to his apartment to feed his “cat”, which is, of course, the big twist you’ll know is coming right from the second you see him shopping for meat.
Suffice to say FORCE OF NATURE isn’t BLOOD FATHER or GET THE GRINGO, with it a quick paycheck part for Gibson, but he brings a lot more life to the part than many of his contemporaries would, so it’s worth seeing if you’re a fan of his. On a modest B-movie level, FORCE OF NATURE isn’t half-bad, but make no mistake, its an assembly line action flick that’s worthy of a VOD rental for Gibson completists but not much more.