If you like watching strong athletic women in film, look no further than “In the Blood.” Former mixed martial artist Gina Carano not only stars here, she practically whips this movie into weepy submission. Though I wasn’t the one getting beaten up by her considerably large fists, 20 minutes in it felt like the first day at a brutal CrossFit class. If there’s one thing to be said about Carano, it’s that she has the singular power to induce every viewer under 80 to go home and hit the gym immediately.
With “In the Blood,” director John Stockwell sort of repeats the formula of his best-known film, “Turistas” (2006) — a vacation horror story with a group of oblivious American tourists as the whining, screaming centerpiece.
But Carano, as newlywed Ava on a Caribbean honeymoon with her husband Derek (Cam Gigandet), would rather die 500 times than whine in public or even let out a little private yelp. When her husband is kidnapped after a bar fight (in which Ava wreaks havoc on said bar and some local gangsters inside), she’s determined to get him back using her bare hands and hard-as-rock thighs.
|Rating||out of 5|
|Run Time||108 minutes|
As Ava kicks ass left and right and cracks skulls as if they were almond shells, it’s hard to resist comparing her to Michelle Rodriguez, the other badass action-princess of mainstream cinema. Both are beautiful, both are incredibly fit, and if you totaled up the number of hours these ladies have spent toning their biceps and training, the number would read more like an executive’s paycheck than accumulated time. Here’s where they differ: Carano practically pulled Rodriguez apart in “Fast & Furious 6” (2013) and you could see from her face that she didn’t give a rat’s ass about sisterhood. Rodriguez, on the other hand, has always broadcast her vulnerability at the same time as she demonstrates her ability to lambaste the entire male species — her emotional weaknesses were part of her power. Carano, however, has no weak spots, and that translates to what fails with “In the Blood”: Ava’s magic evaporates the minute she stops pummeling someone’s face.
Director Stockwell perhaps thought that a woman on her honeymoon should spend time emoting and agonizing and feeling lonesome, which is quite unworthy of Ava’s personality. The whole point of Ava (and the image of Carano herself) is that physical prowess trumps personality — whether or not this woman is nice is not an issue. Unfortunately, Stockwell wants to have his cake and eat it too, and tries to fashion Ava into a muscle-bound beauty and a regular sexy gal when she’s not fighting. He piles acting expectations onto Carano, trying to flesh out her two-dimensional character, as if — hah! — she needed help in that quarter.
“In the Blood” is worth watching, if only because here, finally, is a formidable woman at the very center of an action movie with no distracting romantic relationships to slow her down (her husband has less screen time than her evening dress). I hope you’ll join me in a prayer: Dear god in cinema heaven, we need many more women like Gina Carano, or for that matter, women like Ava.
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