Jim Reed (Tom Berenger) lives on as little as he can. Jim spends most of his days driving around the Northern Maine woods trying to hunt buck. Every once in a while, he’ll come into town for his medicine that keeps him from vomiting blood, and to have breakfast at his favorite diner with the kind waitress, Debbie (Kristen Hager). Jim’s existence is simple, where he seems content to continue his buck search and to have a peanut butter sandwich every night for dinner. Blood and Money also tries to get by on very little, an economical tale reminiscent of a geriatric, B-movie version of a Cormac McCarthy story. While Jim might be able to get by on his no-frills approach, Blood and Money can’t quite say the same.
Jim’s routine is thrown off during a hunting trip, when he accidentally shoots a woman, and discovers she was carrying a duffel bag full of cash with her. Before dying, the woman warns that Jim will die for what he’s done, and it turns out she is one of a group who recently robbed a nearby casino. Jim takes the money and tries to hide from the other thieves, but when they threaten to murder Jim’s estranged son and Debbie’s husband, Jim starts to fight back.
Writer/director John Barr slowly digs into Jim’s past throughout the film, explaining his history with his children, his alcoholism, and his military career. These details all help the audience understand why a man in his seventies might decide to drive off in his customized RV and spend most of his time alone in the woods. Yet Barr never gives any real explanation as to Jim’s motivation in taking the stolen money that sets the events of Blood and Money in place. It’s as if Barr knows how characters in a film should react to an event like this, but doesn’t quite know how to show why his own characters would react the same way. From what the audience can see, Jim is relatively fine with the life he has crafted for himself, and there’s no reason to think that stealing this money will cause anything but suffering, especially after the warnings of the woman he killed.
For most of the film, Jim is alone, but when he gets near other people, they become dispensers of clumsy exposition. For example, during one of his breakfast visits, Debbie mentions the casino robbery, just so the audience is aware of what he’s dealing with. This wouldn’t be so egregious, but only a little while later, this information is also given through a TV broadcast. Little moments like this start to pile up throughout the film, and the introduction of every new character becomes a way for Barr’s script to piece out some minor information that could’ve been explained in a more naturalistic way.
Yet even with these flaws, it’s the performance of Berenger that makes this more than just a “too old for this shit” actor seeking revenge. As Jim tries to survive in the wilderness and protect himself from the crew trying to take him out, we can see the military training still serving its purpose. At times, he’s cold and precise with his actions, but he’s also senior citizen who struggles with the restrictions of his age. Berenger’s performance grounds Blood and Money in a man attempting to do the right thing, even when what he does – in the past and the present – have been less than honorable.
Berenger and Hager do a solid job in a film that isn’t as strong as their talents, but while their humanity improves Blood and Money considerably, Blood and Money is a bit too simple for its own good – a breaking down of tropes to their barest essence without doing enough to add its own point of view.