Force of Nature (2020)
★ / ★★★★
Not even twenty minutes into this mind-boggling interpretation of an action-thriller, I wondered what the likes of Mel Gibson, Emile Hirsch, Kate Bosworth, and David Zayas saw in Cory Miller’s lifeless screenplay. Surely they read the material and realized it is dead on arrival… right? Did they owe somebody a favor? Is this a part of a movie deal? Appear on this train wreck in order to have the chance to make or work on a project they’re actually passionate about? There must be a reason. There just has to be. As I rummaged around in my mind for answers, I found myself tuning out at times. And yet when I snapped myself back into paying attention, characters remain sitting in the same room, taking about the same thing five minutes ago.
Michael Polish’s “Force of Nature” offers not one fresh idea in terms of plot, not one good twist, not even one standout chase or shootout. It involves running around an apartment complex in Puerto Rico during a Category 5 hurricane. A man named John the Baptist (Zayas) figures he could use the chaos to his advantage to perform another heist (they had a successful one earlier that day—the greedy bastard)—for a painting worth $55 million. There is a safe in the basement.
The Baptist proves to be unlucky, however, when cops, Cardillo and Peña (Hirsch, Stephanie Cayo), happen to be in the building because they have been assigned by their superior to evacuate those who choose to stay behind. This building is without personality—one cannot help but think of a movie like John McTiernan’s “Die Hard” because so much is accomplished there while close to nothing is accomplished in this interminable boredom. No, I’m not referring to the budget, flying bullets, and explosions. Rather, the imagination, creativity, and energy injected into a place so we feel as though it is also a character in the story being told.
There is nothing wrong being an action picture that wishes to get in, deliver the goods, and get out. No need for social commentary. Simply provide entertainment that we cannot help but remember hours after the movie is over. Even on this level, the picture fails. Consider hostage situations. Distance among our heroes, villains, and the camera is so tight, it is impossible to appreciate the moment. As a result, tension fails to build. On occasion, based on where the camera is placed, we know precisely how the situation will play out. It is predictable both in content and execution.
Attempts at humor are lame and out of place. Despite the pandemonium, Cardillo happens to fall for a cantankerous old man’s daughter (Bosworth). We roll our eyes as they send each other knowing glances and smiles, as if the material were a romance picture. Hirsch and Bosworth share no believable chemistry; what does a doctor like Troy see in a police officer like Cardillo, a man who feels guilty for having lost his partner in New York—all because of a prank call? Meanwhile, Gibson grumbles his way through danger. It’s one of his worst roles in a while.
“Force of Nature” is not even good enough to play in the background as you perform chores around the house. That would require specific scenes worthy of watching in between having finished dusting and starting up the vacuum. The whole thing is a gargantuan miscalculation.