Review by Richard Steele
What makes a series like Indiana Jones last is not the action. The technology is constantly improving, and someone will always find a way to make an explosion look cooler or an effect more eye- popping; I didn’t pop my DVD of Raiders of the Lost Ark into my laptop the other night to watch the Nazis’ faces melt. I watched it because I love Indiana Jones. The audience may come for the big bang, but they stay for the characters, and characters must be developed.
While the effort and enthusiasm behind Blood, Sand and Gold is evident, the film falls short of its lofty ambitions. An interesting premise, beautiful scenery, and terrific effects cannot save the film from hokey dialogue, stilted acting, and a mediocre plot.
One of the biggest issues here is pacing. Every scene in the film feels rushed. There is a lot of ground to cover in an adventure flick, and this one clocks in at under 90 minutes. We are therefore never given the chance to fully invest in the characters, which would not be a problem if the film were not meant to be taken seriously.
Every scene in Blood, Sweat, and Gold feels as though I’ve missed something, or if this is the sequel to another Jack Riordan escapade. That said, it’s not a very original plot, so it’s a relatively simple matter for any fans of the genre to accept the events presented and go from one scene to the next without getting too hung up on any lack of explanation. But while the plot is something that the audience can accept with an abundance of detail, the characters’ motivations are not. Betrayal and death are only shocking phenomena when film goers have invested emotionally in the characters. A romance is only triumphant when it is built on some foundation. The comparison and influence of Francis Drake on a CEO of a treasure hunting is a pretty cool one (though it’s hammered in with all the subtly of a flaming battering ram), but it is not a substitute for motivation or personality. There is absolutely no chemistry between Jack and Mave, but that doesn’t stop them from making out in the desert. There’s a wonderfully dramatic death scene that would be heart wrenching if the individual concerned had had more than 3 minutes of screen time.
The other glaring problem with the writing is the lack of humor. There are a few half-hearted one liners scattered throughout, and one highly entertaining fight scene in a bathroom, but for the most part, it’s not intentionally funny. A more comedic take on the genre might be able to get away with warping characters from fight scene to chase scene to exposition scene without any time for the audience to digest the action, but not a film with so serious a tone.
The performances range from adequate to cringe worthy. The script doesn’t give the actors a whole lot to work with. Aaron Costa Ganis as Jack Riordan is somewhat charming with his Bassett hound look, and Christopher Redman manages to seem a bit menacing at times. All cast members have a few good moments, and most have laughably forced ones. They are more often than not believable, but with the exception of a brief but enjoyable performance by Paulino Partida, they’re unremarkable.
Score/ Sound: 4/5
The sound design is excellent for the most part. Gunfire, vehicles, and explosions all sound as realistic as could be expected. Bert Mueller’s score is of excellent quality, but it doesn’t quite fit the subpar storytelling. There could also be more subtly and variety in the tracks. That said, the film sounds great.
Production Design: 4.5/5
The best part of the film is the production value. The cast & crew traveled all around the world to shoot, and they made the most of it. There are some beautiful shots of sprawling deserts that serve to immerse the audience in the world of the film far more completely than any of the dialogue spoken by the actors. The only downside is that we don’t get to see enough of these locations before our characters are hurried off to the next.
The effects are also terrific, given the minuscule budget. There’s a believable, if unimaginative rooftop chase scene, and an excellent drop from a helicopter. There’s a bit of a shaky cam issue in some shots, but it does little to distract from the overall presentation.
Blood, Gold, and Sand will appeal to those who want to see underdog independent features compete on a bigger scale with Hollywood blockbusters. Die hard adventure fans will get their fix, assuming they don’t demand much in the way of storytelling. If the goal was to make an action film that looked and sounded on par with big budget studio films, the filmmakers have succeeded, to some degree. Gaelan Connell has shown remarkable thriftiness and ingenuity to co-produce and direct the peace, and there’s ample room for him to grow in this niche. However, as a standalone cinematic adventure, Blood, Sand, and Gold falls as flat and underwhelming as a treasure chest full of sand.
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