Blood for Dust

Blood for Dust

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Blood for Dust is an intense, ugly crime movie about tough men set in 1992 in the northernmost USA where criminals smuggle drugs and guns across the Canadian border. Directed by Rod Blackhurst and written by David Ebeltoft, you know what kind of film Blood for Dust is right from its opening gut-wrenching image, and it stays that way for another one hundred and forty five minutes. It’s anchor to a lead performance by Scoot McNairy that’s up there with the best of classic neo-noir.

In this film, McNairy plays a travelling salesman who sells defibrillators called Cliff. There isn’t anything about him that suggests he isn’t sincere when he tries to show his love for his family or seek solace via prayer or God’s Word. At the same time though, he is the kind of guy who likes going to strip clubs after making a big sale on the road. In other words, we learn so many other things about this man as the story unravels. These do not make us see him as a hypocrite, but rather someone full of contradictions who makes split second choices without any questions asked either to us as viewers or others.

Cliff has got this friend Ricky (Kit Harington) who is all bad boy aura-cum-a smirking face-cum-an infectious self-confidence-and some of the shittiest facial hair you ever saw anywhere else before in your life! Ricky knows Cliff has problems and comes up with an opportunity for him to make lots of money at once through becoming something like a mule; driving guns into Canada then exchanging them for drugs and coming back home (or vice versa).

John agrees assigning Cliff a mission as well as pairing him up with Slim, “minder” alongside henchman (Ethan Suplee-again another amazing character actor to be find in this cast featuring Stephen Dorff who played a Ricky type of character in the 1996 film City of Industry). John tells his contact on the American side, a gangster named John (Josh Lucas, nailing the character’s reptilian swagger), that his buddy Cliff is perfect for that kind of work because he looks and acts like a milquetoast-normal guy who couldn’t hurt a fly even if he wanted to.

From there on things become darker and more disturbing. We won’t dig into any such details but it’s safe to say that in terms of crime flick situations violent or not there is nothing new here (Ricky is very much one of those “live wire” creating chaos types you meet in Mean Streets, State of Grace, Menace 2 Society and countless other crime films); still also one can see that whatever its shortcomings, which include too much self-importance and not enough humor, it does create a strong atmosphere that holds your attention.

Cliff is an archetype of a struggling salesman, burdened with the typical secrets and corruption. Ricky can also be seen as such, albeit in a way that is peculiar to cowboys. In case these actors were cast for a revival of ‘Glengarry Glen Ross,’ McNairy would play Shelly “The Machine” Levine, who tries to justify his dirty hard-sell on useless property by saying that he has a very sick daughter at the hospital. As for Harrington, he could be Ricky Roma, the showoff who brags about how many big fish he has netted and lectures about why middle-class morality is for suckers.

Cliff however is darker because he still has self-awareness along with guilt and an ethereal remnant of his moral code. Desperation drives him to commit crimes out of the noirish conviction that the system is rigged against small fry and life’s too short for this (and you). Cliff also shares this trait with Ricky in terms of being film noir heroes pretending at delusions and justifications. Both of them are more sinned against than sinning but you wouldn’t know it from listening to their rationales.

While the whole ensemble works with flair, McNairy’s quiet yet reactive portrayal enhances all others’. Blood for Dust is not a bad movie; it’s just that he makes it great. This former star in “Halt and Catch Fire” manages to come up with some type of dirty-handed “regular Joe,” even though he might just be some housebroken animal himself.

Therefore, giving it a blank slate approach to acting without making him seem malnourished or poorly drawn is not that easy. But this actor rises above this challenge; no one else was there for him so I guess that they had no choice but to go ahead with everything she wanted done .It looks like inkblot test came alive in this role as an actor as every five minutes the audience can see something different.

In its technical aspects alone, the film is impeccable. Blackhurst and his crew (cinematographer Justin Derry, who channels 1970s Gordon Willis with his wide-frame compositions; editor Justin Oakley; and a very talented sound team) have captured the fear and desolation that people on the margins feel when they think there’s no hope. I never really thought of the early ‘90s as having a distinctive period flavor, but they did, and “Blood for Dust” captures it, right down to the mullets, squarish TVs and computer monitors, and red-orange light made by incandescent bulbs.

Cigarette smoke seems to be wafting from this picture somehow. It also has a hard steel menace of real world variety that hangs around shady gas stations or abandoned dwellings or reaches deep into dark winter forests out where terrible things might happen before anyone found out about them except for steam shovels that dig up skulls.

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