★★☆☆☆

ENVISION MEDIA ARTS

Despite what its name may suggest, “Blood Money” does not live up to its status as a thrilling action flick. The film follows three high school friends who find millions of dollars floating in the river during a camping trip. The trio attempts to take the money, but their robbery attempt is thwarted by the original thief of the money, who is willing to go to great lengths to retrieve his millions.

“Blood Money” was directed by horror filmmaker Lucky McKee, who has several successful horror movies under his belt, including “May,” the story of a traumatized woman who is sent on a murderous bender, and “The Woman,” which follows a successful lawyer in his attempts to civilize a member of a long-lived violent clan.

Despite the successes of these past projects, McKee seems out of his depth in this film. His attempts to throw in frightening subplots fail, feeling irrelevant and random. Additionally, the film is filled with instances of gratuitous and out-of-place gore, which detract from the already minimal plot.

The movie stars Golden Globe nominee John Cusack as Miller, the film’s villain: a ruthless white-collar criminal who is desperate to keep his money. The trio of high school students that stumbles across the money consists of Victor, Jeff and Lynn, played by Ellar Coltrane of “Boyhood,” Jacob Artist of “Glee” and Willa Fitzgerald of MTV’s “Scream,” respectively.

With such an impressive cast, “Blood Money” has the potential to be a great film, but unfortunately, its screenwriting falls short.

The plot is chaotic at best, and downright confusing at worst.

“Blood Money” lacks focus, and the relationships between characters are vague due to unexplained love triangles and unclear loyalties. As a result, attempts to shock ultimately fail and instead only cause confusion.

The film as a whole is devoid of substance, consisting merely of instances of frivolous greed and unnecessary violence. Audiences will find the storyline difficult to follow, and this difficulty is only heightened by the actors’ surprisingly dull performances.

Producer David Tish, the executive vice president of creative affairs at Envision Media Arts, intended for “Blood Money” to be a modern version of John Huston’s cult classic “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” In this regard, “Blood Money” also disappoints.

“The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” which has been hailed by critics as one of Hollywood’s greatest films, is a well-cast, honest portrayal of greed and betrayal; “Blood Money” is a mere caricature.

The film lacks any higher moral message and leaves the audience feeling unfulfilled, with its ending leaving quite a few things unresolved. This is likely because, with the ever-changing alliances between the four main characters, it is impossible to tell who is betraying whom and, more fundamentally, which characters are good or bad.

All in all, “Blood Money” fails to have its desired effect. Though intended to be a thriller, “Blood Money” is full of uninspired and fairly predictable plot twists, with occasional jump scares that fail to do anything more than cause mild surprise.

For viewers looking for a quick fix of cheap thrills, “Blood Money” might suit your interests. However, if you are a fan of “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” and looking to rediscover the excellence of the film in its modern form, “Blood Money” is, quite simply, not worth the time.

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