From its generic title to an ending you can see coming from outer space, Blood and Money follows a path rutted with enough clichés to cover the three million acres of Maine forest land where the film is set. Writer-director John Barr lucked out in getting Tom Berenger, a consummate pro and Platoon Oscar nominee, to play Jim Reed, a Vietnam-era marine and experienced deer hunter. He’s determined to “bag a buck” on this trip to a New England area so remote and lacking in paved roads that manned checkpoints monitor those who enter and, hopefully, exit.
Naturally, there’s trouble ahead for Jim, who drives a custom rig with more than 100,000 miles on it. Metaphor alert: Like the vehicle, Jim is also dragging his ass these days, breathing hard and coughing up blood in the snow. This hunting trip is destined to be his last. And he needs a challenge to meet. Bring on the exposition: It turns out Jim attends AA meetings and harbors guilt about the death of his daughter, as well as the son he hasn’t spoken to in years. Barr clumsily piles on all this info through Jim’s talks with park rangers, game wardens and a waitress named Debbie (Kristen Hager), whose vet husband George (Jimmy LeBlanc) is a fellow AA member unable to drink his military combat experience into oblivion. And, yes, Debbie reminds Jim of his own daughter. Where does a lost soul in the wilderness find a chance at deliverance? It’s as close as the radio, which keeps announcing the big story about the local gambling casino being robbed by five criminals who got away with $1.2 million.
What are the chances Jim will run into those armed and dangerous evildoers and bring them to heel? Have you ever seen a movie? And when Jim stumbles on one of the thieves, a woman he accidentally shot while aiming at a deer, there’s a bag of money lying in the snow next to her dead body. Should Jim keep the cash or call in the law? That moral theme has coursed through dozens of films, including 1996’s A Simple Plan and 2007’s No Country for Old Men. The only difference is that those modern classics were created by artists at the top of their game, and Blood and Money is bottom scraping. Barr, who also serves as film’s cinematographer, just keeps following Jim as he trudges through the snow and every extant survival platitude about one man alone against daunting odds.
No stereotype is left untapped. Jim, outmanned and outgunned, must take on four younger dudes determined to waste him. Hardly strong, silent types, these chatty bad guys love stating their intentions: “Jim Reed, we know you,” they shout. “Don’t make us find your son Steve and his family.” Remember those movies where the hero runs out of ammo at a crucial moment? Jim runs out twice. And if you think Blood and Money won’t stoop to the tired trope in which the protagonist has to burn money to stay warm in the cold, you’d be wrong.