It might be gross understatement to say Force of Nature, new on VOD, is a tough sell: Troublesome stars Mel Gibson (sayer of far too many anti-Semitic comments; on and off the Hollywood blacklist) and Emile Hirsch (convicted of choking a woman at Sundance) play violent cops (in a word, ugh) tasked with saving people (some of them non-Caucasian) during a brutal hurricane in Puerto Rico (tasteless exploitation) while some bad guys try to steal lost, stolen art from a descendant of Nazis (hoo boy). Frankly, the only thing this movie lacks is a jokey reference to not wearing a mask to Wal Mart during a pandemic.
FORCE OF NATURE: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: San Juan. A category-4 hurricane batters the island. Police officer Cardillo (Hirsch) is a real piece of work, trying his best to get out of doing his job during a state of emergency. That includes helping people evacuate before the power goes out and floodwaters rise. But he’s stuck partnering with newbie cop Jess Pena (Stephanie Cayo), who forces him off his ass by responding to a call against his wishes and obligating him to be only 99 percent of a detestable prick. It’s worth noting that, a few hours prior, Cardillo sat in his bathtub with his pistol in his mouth, so he’s a depressed detestable prick.
They end up at an apartment complex where a few stragglers/stereotypes refuse to leave: Griffin (William Catlett), a Black man who doesn’t want to leave behind the large, growling, carnivorous and very hungry pet in his closet, whatever it may be (my guess is, it’s a kraken or chupacabra). An elderly German man named Bergkamp (Jorge Luis Ramos) who keeps a litany of heavy-duty locks and metal plates on his door. And Ray (Gibson), an ailing and grumpy old ex-cop who refuses to budge from his recliner despite needing dialysis to stay alive, and his concerned doctor daughter Troy (Kate Bosworth).
Earlier that day, an evil, evil man named (snicker) John the Baptist (David Zayas) forces an old woman to take him into the bank and let him steal a Picasso from her safety deposit box, then he guns her down with dozens of bank patrons watching and walks out calmly and drives away. Now, with the storm intensifying, he shows up at the apartment complex with some guns and goons who also have guns, and they blow away the super with nary a thought. JtB has a big one for very valuable paintings, and he doesn’t care if he has to steamroller some civilians with an M-16 to get them.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Force of Nature is Monuments Men in reverse crossed with Crawl without alligators crossed with an ’80s action movie that’s aged poorly (pick a Stallone or Gibson or Chuck Norris shoot-’em-up), with added racism.
Performance Worth Watching: I dunno if it’s really worth watching, but Gibson’s ailing character has a rib-wracking cough that would make him the perfect anti-mask conspiracy theorist villain in a COVID-19 movie.
Memorable Dialogue: Feel free to play tee ball with this bit of decontextualized Mel Gibson dialogue: “You know what a fecal transplant is?”
Sex and Skin: None.
Our Take: Welp. I guess if you’re gonna offend one sensibility, you might as well offend them all.
If watching Mel Gibson play a cop who brags about busting people’s fingers seems a little on the nose. If watching him call a Latina cop “sweetheart” is a little too meta. If watching the white people rescue the Latina cop from a hostage situation is a little too backwards. If watching the white doctor rescue the injured Black man from the bad guys and floodwaters is a little too white-savior. If listening to the Black man say he feels guilty for taking settlement money after a police-harassment suit is a little too repugnant. If the whole Nazi-art thing is just another layer of too-muchness. If you have even the slightest inkling of a social conscience, then Force of Nature isn’t for you.
Knowing the significant lead time on a movie’s release, it’s not Force of Nature‘s fault it’s so exquisitely timely in its tone-deaf tastelessness. Granted, it would’ve been just as tone-deaf and tasteless six months ago, and no film exists in a vacuum. For the sake of argument, let’s say it does exist in a vacuum: It’s a chintzy collection of boilerplate action-thriller cliches slapped together in a cynical and derivative manner, a monument to generic, style-free filmmaking. And it deserves to be in a vacuum — the vacuum of outer space. Let it be sucked into the void.
Our Call: SKIP IT. Force of Nature is the most imminently skippable movie of 2020. It’s really really really really really really gross.