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The allure of a good twist has made watching modern thrillers a bit of a problem. Influenced by those that made the highly specific genre so popular, many movies make the mistake of painting themselves into a corner, throwing all bets on the impact of an unexpected surprise. It’s a gimmick that has left many forgettable. What they fail to realize is that if the story itself isn’t creative and compelling, and the characters within it don’t create investment, the ending has no real worth. Such is the case with Blood in the Water, a noir-ish L.A. thriller that has an attractive cast and an inciting location, but fails to make any of it interesting.
It begins with murder. Shot from underwater, we witness a young woman brandish a large handgun and start firing, her image rippled by the undulating surface. This then sets up the premise of the rest of the story, where a young couple, Veronica (Willa Holland) and Percy (Alex Russell) are spending some time house-sitting in a gorgeous home in the Hollywood hills, complete with a swimming pool and lots of glass walls. They are visited by an old friend of theirs, Freedgood (Miguel Gomez), who has just finished a two-year stint in jail for drug dealing. Things seem okay if not a little uncomfortable as we learn that a) Freedgood was once Veronica’s lover and b) he could have squealed on Percy while in jail and got him in trouble but kept his mouth shut.
With that second part, Freedgood dangles it over Percy’s head and tells him he owes him some help, and cons him into another big money drug deal with the lure that a record producer will give Percy a shot. Meanwhile, back in the present, Veronica and Percy sit in the house, beaten and bloody explaining their story to a detective named Hector (David S. Lee), who himself seems a little seedy. With secrets slowly exposing and a triangle that sparks, it all leads to a climax of misdirection and violence.
Written and directed by Ben Cummings and Orson Cummings, Blood in the Water is a curious little film, shot mostly in one place and meant to be a noir-ish, erotic thriller that unfortunately, despite some solid efforts, lacks the momentum and dark humor to make it what it should be. The premise is time-tested, arguably most memorably spun in 1995’s The Usual Suspects, with an investigator digging for answers where clues are hiding in plain site, though yes, this film flips it all around. There are good moments and the actors are up for it, but a shallow script and bland direction ultimately weaken the experience.
There is this troubling trend in movies these days to show the ending, or a bit of it, at the start and then lead us back up to it for the remainder, and with movies like Blood in the Water, it only robs audiences of discovery, which for many is the real joy in watching the genre at all. Both Veronica and Percy are engaging characters, at least at the onset, highly attractive and sexually-charged. It ignites a bit of interest right away, but that energy is wasted and lost with the arrival Freedgood, who doesn’t offer any real sense of danger or intrigue since Percy already knows about Veronica and Freedgood’s past relationship.
Once more, the film can’t capitalize on the potential for a real romantic triangle, instead, putting its energies into the drug deal and corrosive friendship Percy and Freedgood share. What’s worse, Freedgood is limp. He’s never given the opportunity for menace until an ill-advised moment suddenly arrives where the film tries to make him more trouble than he seems. Holland, who is continuing to make a solid name for herself on the hit television series Arrow, spends most of the film in a skimpy bikini with little to say, which in itself is fine, but here’s a character that should be razor-sharp and hold all the proverbial cards, but is instead a weak and lifeless character with no bite. And there is no chemistry between her or either of the men.
Blood in the Water is a tepid thriller, one that hopes its ending will salvage the setup but is ultimately unearned. We have no investment in any of them and the lulls are too long in a movie that is so short. Not violent, nor sexy, nor dark enough for the genre it tries to be part of, Blood in the Water is a disappointment.
Directors: Ben Cummings, Orson Cummings
Writers: Ben Cummings, Orson Cummings
Stars: Willa Holland, Alex Russell, Miguel Gomez