- Force of Nature
- Directed by Michael Polish
- Written by Cory Miller
- Starring Emile Hirsch, Mel Gibson and Kate Bosworth
- Classification R; 91 minutes
The new down-market thriller Force of Nature offers a queasy deal: Would you like two toxic stars for the price of one?
It is one thing to stomach Mel Gibson, whose homophobic, racist, and misogynist behaviour has tainted, yet not completely derailed, his career. But Force of Nature’s producers also throw in Emile Hirsch, so unconcerned are they with the actor’s 2015 assault of a female movie executive. Or maybe it is all a cynical matter of stunt casting, with the filmmakers wise to the fact that their heist movie just isn’t very good. Might as well make some deliberately offensive choices and hope that the backward selling point draws in morbidly curious suckers.
Call me a sucker, then. I mean, sure, it is my job to review Force of Nature, especially because it is one of this week’s highest-profile releases in our current movie-theatre-less world. That’s why I receive danger pay. But I also feel like I would have been drawn to its obvious stench regardless. Mostly in the hope that the film might have leaned into its leading actors’ infamy, crafting something deliberately nasty and vile that was still perversely compelling – a less-ambitious, more popcorn-ready Dragged Across Concrete, say.
Regrettably, and predictably, Force of Nature isn’t interestingly bad – it’s just bad. Set in San Juan during a category five hurricane – just like the one that devastated Puerto Rico in 2017 – the film starts off in poor taste and keeps on doubling down in its disrespectful dumbness. In short order, we are introduced to a young disgraced cop (Hirsch), a gruff retired cop (Gibson), a no-nonsense nurse (Kate Bosworth), and a moustache-twirling bad guy (David Zayas), with about as much depth and care from both the script and the tired-looking performers as this run-on sentence allows. From there, the characters are thrust into a storm-soaked caper that makes about as much sense as the fact that Gibson is getting steady work in the year 2020.
If you need further evidence of the film’s nonsensical stupidity, consider that a good chunk of the plot is devoted to one characters’ possibly demonic dog, and that another unintentionally recalls the best part of the smart-dumb comedy The Other Guys. That may all sound like mindless fun, but trust me, it’s more of a chore. That the film isn’t self-aware of its baked-in notoriety is no surprise. But it doesn’t even deliver on the simple grimy thrills of this particular kind of direct-to-VOD trash. If you’re going to suffer through Gibson and Hirsch’s lazy performances, shouldn’t you be rewarded with some decent meathead action moments? Force of Nature is here to give a stubby middle finger to that notion.
Director Michael Polish – who is working here without his usual collaborator, twin brother Mark – settles on the laziest set-ups possible, almost as if he is actively refusing to engage with the material. Maybe he was just as disgusted by his leading men as others are. Or perhaps he was tricked into thinking he was remaking that 1999 Ben Affleck-Sandra Bullock rom-com of the same name. Either way, he had a chance to flee or throw an alias’s name up on the credits, but decided not to. But just because he stuck it out doesn’t mean that you have to.
Force of Nature is available digitally on-demand starting June 30
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