In the Blood
Opens Fri., April 4 at Sundance. Rated R. 108 minutes.
We have Steven Soderbergh to thank for making former MMA fighter Gina Carano into a big-screen action heroine with his 2011 Haywire, but he’s moved on to other things. So does Carano fade back into B-movies, or does she have the charisma to complement her elbow punches and knee stomps? To be sure, she carries this thriller about a woman trying to rescue her husband from kidnappers in an unnamed banana republic; but then, it’s not a very big lift. Directed by John Stockwell (Turistas, Blue Crush), the movie has a much different pedigree than Haywire. In this honeymoon-gone-bad is a Club Med aesthetic of GoPro cameras, zip lines, selfies, Snapchat, and narcoterrorists. Carano is supported by veteran faces (Treat Williams, Danny Trejo, Luis Guzmán, etc.), but the real test is whether she needs a man to save her in the end—or the other way around.
In flashbacks, we see how young Ava’s father (Stephen Lang) taught her the art of self-protection. A decade later, her new WASP family is suspicious of this interloper from the barrio. Ava’s husband (Tacoma native Cam Gigandet) reads like a bland, handsome Bennington dropout; he’s the one who’s married up. In truth, we don’t really miss him once he’s been nabbed, but Ava is relentless in her battles with corrupt cops and Caribbean drug lords. “Where’s my husband?” she snarls, beating confessions out of suspects like Jack Bauer. Instead of Tiger Mom, we have Tiger Wife. Though not a great actress, Carano moves with a healthy, physical pride—ready to be somebody’s mentor and martial-arts trainer. If Carano could only grab better roles, she might be the tough older sister to the Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen or Divergent ’s Tris Prior.