A well-done take on a familiar movie. Earth and Blood gives us very little we have not seen before but it does it well and manages to hit more or less each of the items on the genre checklist.
This review of Earth and Blood (Netflix) is spoiler-free.
Buried deep beneath the Netflix algorithm is a treasure trove of genre cinema. If you are prepared to take your chances with some by-the-numbers fluff, every now and again you will be rewarded with something that manages to hit the mark. I am pleased to report that Earth and Blood is one of those that succeeds.
A struggling sawmill owner plans to give up his dream and sell his business so that he can give his family a better life; unfortunately for him, one of his employees also has ties to a criminal gang whose recent heist of 8kg of cocaine from a police station has gone wrong. The two events collide and threaten Said and his plans.
The sympathetic characters are well-drawn (if a little archetypal) and the bad guys are deliberately thinly pencilled in. This works for the sake of an 80-minute runtime and helps you get clear about who to root for and why without loads of unnecessary exposition. There is not an ounce of fat on this script with almost every element introduced in the first half getting some kind of payoff in the second.
Narratively, the film does a good job of lining up the pieces. It takes its time to establish the rules and introduce the central location so that when the action comes, it feels earned and a natural consequence of the events that proceeded it rather than being simply thrown at you because the producers demanded a shootout.
When the inevitable shootout in the sawmill does take place there is really nothing here that we have not seen before in more notable films, but what it does, it does effectively. Earth and Blood draws heavily from familiar set-ups and plays like a Netflix version of Straw Dogs, just with all the moral ambiguity stripped away.
The action sequences are well-staged and the director Julien Leclercq does a good job of building the tension. All the dominoes are lined up and then one by one they fall until the film reaches its conclusion. Usually with a film like this you are pretty sure within the first few minutes who is and isn’t making it out alive but in this case that felt less clear cut.
Earth and Blood offers viewers very little that they will not have seen before but what it does, it does efficiently and well. If you are into honest, working-class people standing up for themselves against scary-looking gangsters in the countryside then there are worse ways you could spend 80 minutes.
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