It’s a long-running joke about the French and pretentious art films. Or even worse, their fondness for Jerry Lewis’ films. But they also have built a reputation for action films that runs from the films of Jean-Paul Belmondo through Leon The Professional and District 13. Julien Leclercq has contributed to this with films like The Assault and The Bouncer. Now he’s back with a siege oriented thriller Earth And Blood (La Terre Et Le Sang). How does it compare?
Earth And Blood opens with criminals raiding a police station for a large amount of cocaine that was recently seized. It ends in blood and double-crosses. The surviving thieves hide the drugs in their car. One of them trades vehicles with his reluctant half brother Yanis (Samy Seghir, 7 Days in Entebbe). Yanis is on parole and has no desire to get dragged back into his old ways.
Adama (Eriq Ebouaney, Transporter 3) wasn’t happy that the police seized his drugs. He’s even less happy that they’ve been stolen again. He tracks the car back to where Yanis works. It’s a sawmill belonging to Saïd (Sami Bouajila, The Siege) who lives there with his daughter Sarah (Sofia Lesaffre.) She needs a hearing aid and speaks in (unsubtitled) sign language. When Adama shows up with a large gang of heavily armed goons Saïd has to keep himself and his daughter alive until the police can arrive.
For a film with a simple plot, Earth And Blood takes a while to get things going. The film runs eighty minutes and it’s not until the forty-minute mark that Adama and his goons reach the sawmill. There’s a bit to much time spent on Saïd’s financial and health issues. In a longer film, they would be good background material. In a film of this length, they’re a distraction.
If you’ve ever been in a sawmill or even seen footage of one in operation you know they’re full of incredibly dangerous equipment. Just the place to set a film like this, right? Leclercq and co-writers Jérémie Guez (Night Eats The World, A Bluebird In My Heart) and Matthieu Serveau apparently didn’t think so. Apart from a nasty bit involving an arm and a band saw it goes unused.
Earth And Blood does deliver plenty of action in its second half. But it wastes the potential to be something different. Instead, it settles for chases through the woods and a very generic rural hero versus urban thugs plot. The fact he seems to enjoy torturing the bad guys is supposed to make him seem badass. But they take it to ridiculous levels. With his daughter missing and two guys with AKs stalking him, he takes the time to tie one up between a horse and a post. He could just put a bullet in him and go to save his daughter. Instead, he sets up a down-home version of The Hitcher’s most memorable scene.
It all ends in a climax that revolves around a pair of equally cliched and unlikely moves on the part of Adama. For a film that started with so much potential and involved so much talent, Earth And Blood falls apart badly.
Earth And Blood is available on Netflix in subtitled and dubbed versions.