A suicidal beat cop finds himself pinned down by a gang of art thieves in a Puerto Rico apartment complex during an intense hurricane in Force of Nature, a first-rate (if a little tone-deaf) B-movie thriller livened up by a schticky supporting performance from Mel Gibson.
As 2018’s The Hurricane Heist taught us, hurricanes always make the best times for daring daylight robberies: locations have been evacuated, security is low, and risk of death by mother nature is only of mild concern.
Unfortunately for the gang of art thieves in Force of Nature, John the Baptist (David Zayas) isn’t the most organized of crooks: he doesn’t know exactly where the stolen Nazi art he’s after is stashed, and keeps executing his hostages before they can tell him.
But John knows it’s somewhere in a Puerto Rico apartment building, which will be emptied by the time a devastating hurricane hits and an easy target for himself and his five or six cohorts armed with machine guns (every time you think they’ve all been dispatched, another pops up around the corner).
Good thing he brought a full crew: still at the location is the elderly German who has hidden the art, Jason (William Catlett) and his big cat behind a locked door, retired cop Ray (Mel Gibson) and his daughter/nurse Troy (Kate Bosworth) who can’t get him to leave, and beat cops Cardillo (Emilie Hirsch) and Jess (Stephanie Cayo), who have been sent to evacuate the place.
To sum it up: we’ve got stolen Nazi art, machine gun-toting thieves, a category four-or-five hurricane, Mel Gibson, a big cat – only briefly glimpsed, but it might be a panther – growling behind a locked door, and a small group of other characters trying to survive it all. While the hurricane rains are drenching almost every shot in the film, the feline is nicely-utilized as Chekhov’s cat.
This all combines in Force of Nature to make a nifty little thriller, more than competently put together by director Michael Polish, though the tone wavers into lighthearted, even goofy, territory more often than the serious-minded screenplay (by Cory Miller) would seem to suggest.
Hirsch is a solid everyman cop trying to make sense of the situation, but Force of Nature nicely splits time between all the characters, and gives significant duties to both Bosworth and Cayo. Zayas is an effective baddie, as always, though his role is largely underwritten.
But Gibson steals the show with a schticky, tic-laden performance that recalls some of the actor’s best comedic work. Hardly believable as a former cop – he handles his handgun with all the grace of the Three Stooges – Gibson is still an incredibly charismatic star who lights up every scene he’s in; it’s only a shame he isn’t in more of them.
For director Michael Polish (Twin Falls Idaho), Force of Nature marks a rare occasion he directs a script not written by himself or brother Mark; more of a straightforward B-movie than the offbeat indies he’s usually associated with, it also represents some of his best work since his earliest features. It’s also still a family affair, with wife Bosworth and daughter Jasper Polish (in flashback scenes as Hirsch’s character’s partner) co-starring.
Despite a low budget, Force of Nature is a compact and effective little thriller that rises above the typical low-budget action movies of its ilk – usually starring a Bruce Willis or Nicolas Cage – thanks to a first-rate presentation and solid performances. And Gibson is a real hoot in support.
Force of Nature will be released on streaming platforms and home media from June 30.