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  • Alex First

Force of Nature (MA) - 99 minutes

An ostensibly by the book procedural, Force of Nature nevertheless has a few surprises that give it a kick along.

In New York, Detective Cardillo (Emile Hirsch) is making out in an unmarked vehicle with his rookie cop partner (and fiancé) while his small pug is watching intently.

Against the woman’s protestations, Cardillo answers a call of duty and everything changes.

Then we cut to Puerto Rico, where a cyclone is brewing and a decidedly suspicious group of men is holed up in a cafe waiting for something to happen across the road.

When an elegant, old lady drives up in a luxury limo, two of them spring into action, intending to rob the said person.

Only their action nets them a decidedly more attractive bounty, which the ringleader, known as John the Baptist (David Zayas), hadn’t counted on.

Mind you, that necessitates going to another address, which is where the lion’s share of the action takes place.

It is also where they unexpectedly set eyes upon the detective from the opening scene, whose life has taken a decided turn.

He and his novice partner Jess Peña (Stephanie Cayo) for the day have also made their way to the same location after receiving a call out regarding a man who was supposedly hoarding meat – I mean tons of it.

Let’s just say there is whole lot more going on here than either of the key parties realise ... and not everyone will walk away.

As the rain and horrendous wind gusts worsen, there are still a few who refuse to leave the apartment complex.

Among them is a grizzled and sickly former cop – Ray (Mel Gibson) – in urgent need of dialysis, being prevailed upon by his doctor daughter, Troy (Kate Bosworth), to go to hospital and an older German gent carrying a secret.

For a while you play a game of joining the dots to try to determine how the first scene relates to the second.

Introducing a giant “cat” with a voracious appetite is not something I could have anticipated, nor how feeding it would draw the cops in to the nub of the story.

The production values in Force of Nature are reasonably slick, not to overlook the dismay I felt when hearing and seeing Mel Gibson’s highly staged coughing fits.

And, of course, there is no credibility in Gibson going from barely functioning to pulling on a bullet proof vest and choosing armoury for the first time in 15 years.

Add to that the apartment block German resident’s undecipherable English language skills and the unbelievable romantic link between the cop without motivation, Cardillo, and Ray’s doctor daughter, Troy.

And, unfortunately, the method of the inevitable demise of the ringleader, John the Baptist, was signalled ... clumsily.

Still, the leader of the bad guys has an “appropriate” selfishness and total disregard for human life other than his own.

I also quite liked the quirkiness of the “cat” owner, Griffin, as downplayed by Will Catlett.

Force of Nature was written by Cory Miller, who, according to Rolling Stone spent four years as an investigator for the NYPD Internal Affairs unit. It is his first feature film.

Direction is from Michael Polish, who is married to Kate Bosworth.

Hardly a world beater, Force of Nature is rather a lightweight distraction for a rainy day.

Rated MA, it scores a 6 out of 10.

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