“Blood for Dust” is a gritty crime drama set in the 90s era that follows Cliff (played by Scoot McNairy), a struggling salesman who is troubled with mounting debts and a sick son in need of urgent medical treatment.
Ricky (played by Kit Harington) his former colleague who is involved in a criminal enterprise offers him an opportunity for some quick cash. Blinded by his desperation, Cliff reluctantly becomes entangled in a dangerous web of violence and double-crossing.
The story that unfolds immerses viewers in a bleak and gritty crime underworld, presenting a tale of desperation, moral ambiguity, and survival.
The screenplay, co-written by Blackhurst and David Ebeltoft, succeeds in crafting a morally ambiguous world where survival instincts reign. The story explores themes of desperation, loyalty, and the consequences of one’s past actions.
While the film showcases some noteworthy strengths, including strong performances and atmospheric direction, it falls short in terms of originality and pacing.
The film’s strongest element would be the quality of the acting performances. Scoot McNairy delivers a well-nuanced portrayal of Cliff, capturing the character’s quiet competence and underlying turmoil. He brings unpredictability and volatility that keeps the audience engaged, even when the story falters. Kit Harington, also delivers an equally strong performance that successfully embodies the workaday criminal archetype, exuding a sense of ambition and unpredictability. Although the chemistry between McNairy and Harington seems lacking at times their performances elevate the tension and dynamics of their characters’ relationship.
Director Rod Blackhurst demonstrates a strong command of atmosphere, immersing viewers in the grimy world of underground crime. Blackhurst‘s visual storytelling, combined with the eerie cinematography by Justin Derry and the string-heavy score by Nick Bohun takes advantage of the film’s snowy, cold and shadowy setting to heighten the sense of imminent danger and unease throughout the narrative.
However, the narrative suffers from pacing issues, particularly in the first act, which feels drawn-out and sluggish in establishing Cliff‘s precarious situation. Then you have to patiently sit through it when to get to the the film’s final act which only serves up a somewhat predictable and familiar resolution.
Despite these shortcomings, “Blood for Dust” manages to captivate through Scoot McNairy‘s commanding presence and the film’s unapologetically dark atmosphere. McNairy’s ability to embody the complexities of his character, portraying a man torn between survival and morality, is a testament to his skill as an actor. Additionally, the film’s examination of the cyclical nature of crime and the sacrifices individuals make to protect their loved ones adds depth to the overall narrative.
While drawing inspiration from classic crime films of the past, “Blood for Dust” struggles to establish its unique voice. The narrative treads familiar ground, lacking the distinctive style and fresh perspectives that would have set it apart. The film’s pacing issues hinder its impact, at times testing the patience of the audience and diminishing the tension that should accompany a crime thriller.
I would score this film 7/10. “Blood for Dust” is certainly one of those films that does great at festivals particularly because of the performances of its lead actors. Despite its limitations, the film remains an engaging watch for fans of the genre, offering an intense and morally ambiguous journey into the dark underbelly of desperation and survival.
In the end, “Blood for Dust” is a bleak crime thriller that showcases notable performances and atmospheric direction. Scoot McNairy‘s portrayal of a reluctant criminal stands out, while the film’s visuals and score effectively create a sombre and foreboding ambience that sells the story being told well enough.