Blood And Money

Review by Willard Manus

The icily pristine Maine woods in winter serve as the backdrop for tainted human behavior in BLOOD AND MONEY, the compelling indie feature directed by John Barr. Tom Berenger stars as Jimmy Reid, a battered oldtimer who lives in his van and spends his time hunting for deer. Jimmy is something of a tragic figure: an ex-Marine who fought in Viet Nam and has been pummeled by life. His marriage failed when a mistake on his part resulted in the death of a beloved daughter. Haunted by bad memories, he has pretty much given up on society. A loner, a man of few words, he gets by on a government pension, AA meetings, and an occasional meal at a local diner, where a fetching young waitress (Kristen Hager) always flashes a smile for him.

Jimmy is also in poor health. He’s got some kind of lung disease (probably TB) that causes him to spit up blood and even pass out. But that doesn’t keep him from taking to the woods and crunching through snow and ice with rifle in hand–-and a cigarette in his mouth–-in search of big game.

It’s on one of those forays that he spots what appears to be a deer. He takes telescopic aim and fires, hitting and killing his target. Which turns out to be a woman who was carrying a duffel bag stuffed with cash. He soon learns that she was part of a gang that robbed a nearby gambling casino and fled into the woods to escape punishment.

Jimmy, now in possession of a million bucks, decides to keep the loot. Bad move. The heavily armed crooks soon realize he’s the guy who’s got their loot. They begin to track him in grim, relentless fashion, swearing to kill him once they catch up with him. The hunter becomes the hunted.

Director Barr (who co-wrote the screenplay with Alan Petherick and Mike McGrale) does a nifty job in building suspense over the course of this 89-minute movie. A study in greed and survival, it also benefits greatly from Berenger’s strong, confident performance. With his craggy face, raspy voice, and eyes radiating pain and world-weariness, Jimmy is an all-too-human character, a crusty old coot who, despite his many flaws, makes you care for him.

There is a third major character in BLOOD AND MONEY: the Maine woods. Snow-covered, silent, thick with trees and streams, the Allagash forest is a world unto itself. Barr, who also served as director of photography, captures the Allagash’s uniqueness with his precise, atmospheric camera work. Zak McNeil’s low-key but insistent musical score also helps give the film its eerie, unsettling edge.