Review by Benjamin Poole
Directed by: Luke White
Starring: Ollie Barbieri, Klariza Clayton, Scott Chambers, Sabrina Hansen
Blood Money, a British low budget drama/horror/mystery, at least opens intriguingly. In a shadowed layby, a couple in a car are lost. They bicker, desperately scour a fold out map and bemoan their lack of GPS. Suddenly, a friend rocks up with directions. Emboldened, the couple follow his car, both mysteriously peeling a couple of balaclavas over their faces as they drive off. It’s certainly a bold opening gambit, one that deliberately, and deliciously, disorientates the audience. However, this early sequence is also ironically indicative of Blood Money, as for the remainder of its running time the audience is often similarly perplexed, more by accident than the film’s design though, as neither the character motivations or narrative of the ensuing film make much sense, and, like its confused leads, we’re left in the dark trying to make sense of it all.
Following a botched art heist (aren’t they all!) in France, a group of young criminal pals hole up in a rather attractive country pile in Normandy. However, during the theft, one of the gang only went and got himself killed; and our guys and gals are left with his body on their bloody hands. Seemingly undeterred by this fateful turn of events, or even remotely curious as to how their mate actually got done in, they crack open the vodka (yes, in Normandy, where pinot gris all but flows from the very taps, these divs are drinking vodka; as if we aren’t given enough reason to dislike them!), and make vague plans to sell the painting. But then the body of the dead pal goes missing overnight - yikes! You can imagine what happens next, or at least, what the filmmaker’s idea of what happens next was meant to be: a seething thriller of crossed loyalties, greed and paranoia.
The problem with Blood Money is that the haphazard disposition of these would-be criminal masterminds is shared by the people behind the camera. Firstly, in this chaotic film, there isn’t really enough to define the cast as actual characters: we get no sense of their interpersonal associations or their history, and there is little to distinguish one from the other (they even look similar!). My first advice, to both amateur art thieves AND low-budget film makers, would be to keep the team small scale: there’s six of this bunch and that’s too much to be getting on with. They’re the world’s most unlikely criminals too - a faction of coiffed, nicely accented kids. There’s no real indication of why they felt compelled to rob an art gallery. In fact, the sprawling mansion they choose as their hide out is actually OWNED by one of their parents! There is some ambiguous chatter about one of them not having a job ‘waiting for him when he gets home’, but this is spoken by a kid wearing what looks like top to toe Pringle! Another, when asked what she is going to do with her cut, doesn’t ‘really know’ (it is her massive house they are hanging out in, so I suppose the share will amount to loose change). It’s not so much Reservoir Dogs as Reservoir Crufts.
Botched plot aside, the film is certainly shot very well. Technically, Blood Money is of a level of cinematic quality that small budget films of a similar ilk would dream of. Crisply framed, with clear ambition in its decisions regarding angles, shots and blocking scenes, it always looks great, even if the action is seemingly at random. For example, there is an odd adulterous sex scene involving the girlfriend of one of the thieves and the Pringle lad, which makes little emotional sense as the film hasn’t developed any of the relevant dynamics, and therefore just seems like an exploitative excuse to get one of the beauteous kids in her underwear for the trailer (mind you, I’m never one for sex scenes - they usually bear little realistic relation to the actual act and they’re just five minutes of awkwardness when you’re watching films with your parents, so there is that). At another point towards the end of the film, the same girl (I think - it was dark), has a right old go at her actual fella for smoking; ‘after everything you’ve said to me, all the promises you’ve made’. For smoking! My love, you’ve just robbed a gallery. Your friend is dead. You’re up to your neck in criminal activity! She’s not cut out for this. But then again, in Blood Money, I’m not sure if anyone is up to the job.
Blood Money is on VOD March 3rd.