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It’s not hard to see why treasure hunters and archaeologists have been such a mainstay in popular entertainment. The lure of wealth and high adventure in dangerous times is the stuff of pure escapism, and some of the most memorable characters in cinema have spun their tales in the jungles and deserts of some of the best movies ever made. With Blood, Sand and Gold, an independent feature about hunting for lost loot, ambition runs high in a film with lofty ideas, even if they all can’t quite hit the mark.
In the deserts of Morocco, a team of archeologists make an astounding discovery, 15th century artifacts worth billions. Unfortunately, chief archaeologist Mave Adams (Monica West), gets it all stolen right from the site, and almost gets herself killed in the process. With her family salvage company in turmoil, and she getting pushed out of power, she turns to ex-con Jack Riordan (Aaron Costa Ganis) for help, an adventurer with some pretty impressive skills in tracking and recovery. And tracking he does, all over the world.
Where it leads is right back to Adams, or at least her brother (Christopher Redman), who has positioned himself as head of the company, a madman who fancies himself a modern day Sir Francis Drake of sorts and has his own nefarious plans. Now, they must trace the treasure along Drake’s ancient route to try and stop what becomes much than just a hunt for treasure but a conspiracy that leads to a deadly confrontation.
Directed by Gaelan Connell, Blood, Sand and Gold is the little movie that could, made on a shoestring budget that mostly manages to overcome that limitation with its high production values, including a number of authentic shooting locations and decent visual effects. It’s a movie with a grand vision, and there’s a sense it is trying to harken back a few decades to bold adventure films of the time with a modern zing. Think of the Allan Quatermain series or even Romancing The Stone and you’ll get an idea of where some of the influences might come from.
That said, it is not quite on the same plane of course as these films and while parallels exists with themes, execution is decidedly different. Blood, Sand and Gold doesn’t lack at all for effort, and Connell’s vision is an exciting one if not a familiar one as our heroes bounce around the globe, making good use of the locals and vistas. In fact, if there is anything that is to be praised about the movie it has got to be the direction and cinematography. Connell does well staging action and building some decent tension, especially in the chase and fight scenes, even if they are a little underdeveloped. The globetrotting lends a fair bit of authenticity to the whole affair despite it not always clear where exactly we are.
And there lies the rub of it all. It’s a needlessly complex story that is a little hard to keep track of, simply because no one stops and allows us to catch up. Full of tropes, it’s not like it takes much to do so, but there’s a surprisingly high level of expositional dialogue and a lot of it cliché-riddled. West and Costa Ganis are likable leads but there’s very little chemistry between the two, and that goes double for the supporting cast. But honestly, it’s hard to fault the actors as the film is obviously less about them than the action around them.
Blood, Sand and Gold is what it is, a high-concept outing on a low-budget ticket. For pure escapism–most assuredly the filmmakers priority–there’s a lot to enjoy, and how can one take seriously a movie that has two people survive an over-the-top car battle in the desert that ends in a make-out session? It’s carefully-crafted cheese that true indie fans will take to heart, flaws and all.
Movie description: Blood, Sand and Gold is a 2017 action thriller about an archeologist who makes a startling discovery in the desert, only to have it taken from her.
Director(s): Gaelan Connell
Actor(s): Aaron Costa Ganis, Monica West, Christopher Redman
Genre: Action, Thriller