FORCE OF NATURE (2020) | VOD
When the trailers for Force of Nature dropped, social media had a rightful blow-up as to what Michael Polish’s actioner was suggesting. Apart from the fact that it is set in Puerto Rico and uses a Category-5 hurricane as its backdrop - Hurricane Maria devastated the territory in actuality in 2017 - there was the stereotypical typecasting in Latino actors as the supposed villains and white actors as the saviours. Lastly, it’s fronted by Emile Hirsch and Mel Gibson, two actors who are no strangers to their share of controversies, with Gibson only recently resurfacing in the press thanks to anti-Semitic comments he allegedly made against actress Winona Ryder. Controversy aside however, Force of Nature is not worth its weight in issues, ultimately playing out as the most generic, uninspired thriller that fails to make good on any of its bonkers ingredients.
Given the fact that director Michael Polish has a heft of lunacy at his disposal in terms of the narrative - in addition to the hurricane backdrop, we have a heist plot at the core, as well as a bizarre sub-arc involving an oversized cat (could be a jaguar) - it’s alarming how safe proceedings ultimately prove to be. Not once does he deviate from the expected (even when given the opportunity), and his capable cast all fail to elevate their characters beyond the most basic description. This is a heist movie with no intrigue, an action movie with no stakes, and a (very forced) romance with no chemistry.
Though there are a lot of issues with Force of Nature, screenwriter Cory Miller (making his feature-length debut) never skimps on plot devices to really up the ante - it’s just a shame that Polish never wants to embrace them in the manner they deserve. A heist involving a priceless work of art that needs to be uncovered in an unassuming apartment block just as a Category-5 hurricane hits? Potential. A handful of residents refusing to leave, even after the disillusioned cop and his eager partner sternly suggest they do so? Potential. One of said residents housing a very hungry, very oversized cat? POTENTIAL. There’s ridiculousness by the boatload here, and had Polish turned it up to 11 by going balls-to-the-wall with these elements - especially the giant cat - we could have had a violent slice of guilty pleasure on our hands here.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Contrary to popular belief, Mel Gibson is not the leader of the pack here; his casting was a late ring-in after original choice Bruce Willis backed out, which would explain why his role is more of the supporting kind given Willis’s penchant for taking on minuscule roles in DTV garbage. Regardless of his screen time, Gibson at least puts in a wild strand of energy that Willis would have avoided. Wild energy it may be however, it doesn't equate to the star turning in a performance he can be proud of. Similarly, Emile Hirsch doesn't feel remotely invested in his surroundings and feels far too young to be the jaded police officer, leaving Kate Bosworth (Polish’s real-life spouse) and Peruvian actress Stephanie Cayo to do most of the heavy lifting; the former trying her hardest as Gibson’s put-upon daughter, and the latter as Hirsch’s eager-to-please partner.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
"A generic, uninspired thriller that isn’t worth its weight in its surrounding controversy..."
The hurricane backdrop never gives way to any wild situations, nor does the elusive big cat, leaving the film to feel like a very obvious small-scale production that went through copious amounts of water. Once Hirsch and Cayo visit the apartment block that houses most of the action, the scene is very much set, with the surroundings unable to generate remote excitement.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The sound of falling rain, the occasional gun shot, and the most uninspired musical cues… it’s what the story deserves at this point.
Whilst I would certainly never defend Gibson’s personal acts, I won’t deny that he’s still a great actor, and during his last time in Hollywood exile he produced some genuinely interesting and entertaining products (see Get The Gringo, Machete Kills, and Blood Father for proof). Though this was technically made before his latest swarm of controversy, this type of bargain bin fluff feels fitting as to what he’s likely to be afforded going forward. There’s a fun premise to be embraced here, but all the outside elements are wrong. Let this one wash away.