Force of Nature (2020) Movie Review

Director: Michael Polish
Writer: Cory M. Miller (as Cory Miller)
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Mel Gibson, David Zayas

Maybe it’s a coincidence that Force of Nature’s main character is introduced the same way as Martin Riggs’ in Lethal Weapon, which has burnt-out cop Cardillo (Emile Hirsch) contemplating suicide by eating his gun. But since it doesn’t turn out to have any meaningful baring on the plot or Cardillo’s actions, perhaps it’s intended as an homage to co-star Mel Gibson, who’s seen better days.

Force of Nature has a similar concept to The Hurricane Heist, a recent disaster-caper mash-up that I hate to admit I enjoyed (then again, I’ve always had a soft spot for disaster movies, no matter how they’re disguised). But the similarities pretty much end there. Comparatively speaking, Force of Nature suffers from erratic pacing, boring characters and low-wattage action that reflects its budget. Even the highly touted hurricane is mostly just heavy rain, seldom impacting the actual story.

But it tries really hard sometimes, even throwing in a perpetually hungry panther one character keeps as a pet. Ridiculous, to be sure, but a wonderfully amusing curveball in a film that could use more of them. Elsewhere, Cardillo and new partner Jess Pena (Stephanie Cayo) are two cops assigned to evacuate an apartment building before the storm hits. However, a couple of old guys refuse to leave. One is ailing, cantankerous ex-cop Ray Barrett (Gibson), cared for by beleaguered daughter Troy (Kate Bosworth), who conveniently happens to be a doctor. The other is a German – with Nazi ties! – who owns something valuable that vicious gangster John the Baptist (David Zayas) and his thugs want at any cost. As the storm brews, they seize the entire building, ready to kill anyone in their way.

While brains aren’t necessarily a prerequisite for movies like this, Force of Nature tends to abuse the privilege, which would be fine if it was efficiently paced and had characters we care about. But too often, people become separated for ridiculous reasons in order to provide clumsy character exposition, during which time they seem to forget they’re being hunted by trained killers, to say nothing of the raging Category 5 hurricane. Speaking of which, “raging” is a relative term, as demonstrated in a scene where Cardillo & Troy are pretty-much unfazed by the weather as they climb a scaffolding. As for Gibson, I think we’ve all accepted his glory days are in the rearview mirror, but geez…not-only is Ray ultimately inconsequential, all that’s really required from Mel is to hack & cough, belittle Jess and add marquee value.

The best moments belong to the cat, which is almost never shown but eventually does figure into the story. Sure, it’s a supremely silly – and predictable – plot device, but genuinely funny nonetheless. Elsewhere, Force of Nature could’ve used more of the same craziness to elevate it above generic video fodder.

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