Force of Nature

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Force of Nature Movie Poster Image
Flaws outweigh attributes in violent action-thriller.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 91 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Not really a message movie, but it will give viewers plenty to talk about, from treatment of Black man in market (the other man blames him for a crime; security guard takes side of lighter-skinned man) to concept of the old Nazi. Potential mistreatment of wild animal (locked in dark room).

Positive Role Models & Representations

For the most part, characters are damaged, with shameful pasts; they often wallow in their misery. Cardillo eventually seems to turn himself around, but that's mostly thanks to romantic boost. Even though she has a smallish role and is frequently paired with more powerful men, Jess is a fairly strong role model as woman of color in position of authority. On the other hand, White characters are the heroes in story set in Puerto Rico, while Latinx characters are the villains.

Violence

Heavy, frequent guns and shooting. Characters shot and killed. Bloody, gory wounds. Fighting, punching, kicking. Character holds gun to head, contemplating suicide. Fall from high place. Fall down stairs. Character tied to chair (another person kicks her over). Wild animal attack. Explosives. Violent hurricane. Spoken story about someone "injecting rat blood" into someone else's eyes. Spoken description of "fecal transplant." Spoken story of shooting a bunch of frozen turkeys for target practice. Nazis mentioned.

Sex

Couple kisses passionately in a car; she straddles him in the driver's seat.

Language

Constant use of extremely strong language, including "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "bulls--t," "p---y," "c--ksucker," "ass," "pissed."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character takes Oxy (oxycodone) for pain. Spoken story about drug bust ("93 bags of crack cocaine").

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Force of Nature is an action-thriller starring Emile Hirsch and Mel Gibson about a group of crooks trying to rob an almost-evacuated apartment building during a hurricane. Violence is frequent and includes lots of guns and shooting, bloody wounds, death, fighting, and more. Language is extremely salty, with constant use of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," and more. There's one scene of a couple kissing passionately in a car (she straddles him in the driver's seat). A character takes Oxy for pain, and there's a spoken story about a drug bust involving crack cocaine. Characters raise thought-provoking issues related to skin color and prejudice, but this is also a story set in Puerto Rico in which White characters are heroes and Latinx ones are villains, which feels culturally clueless. There's also troubling treatment of a wild animal.

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What's the story?

In FORCE OF NATURE, a huge Category 5 hurricane approaches Puerto Rico, and local police officer Cardillo (Emile Hirsch) is expecting to work his usual desk job. But he's asked to go with another officer, Jess (Stephanie Cayo), to help make sure the city is evacuated. They answer a call about a man, Griffin (William Catlett), who's buying out the meat counter at a shop. He pleads with the police to let him feed his cat before being arrested, and they comply, learning that there are two people in his apartment building who refuse to leave: ailing ex-cop Ray (Mel Gibson) -- whose nurse daughter, Troy (Kate Bosworth), is trying and failing to coax him out -- and a mysterious elderly man. As the storm ramps up, a band of criminals led by the notorious John the Baptist (David Zayas) shows up, seeking a fortune in stolen Nazi artwork that's stashed in the building.

Is it any good?

An odd mix of snappy and silly, of culturally aware and culturally clueless, this thriller may pass muster with a few viewers, but others will likely find it problematic in more ways than one. Directed by indie veteran Michael Polish, Force of Nature is, on the plus side, a compact, tense little B movie, using the storm and its (mostly) lone location to cook up a lightly effective cat-and-mouse game. The prize -- a multimillion-dollar painting -- brings a sense of history/mystery to the proceedings. The movie also shows at least some empathy toward Black character Griffin, acknowledging the evils of prejudice. And Jess, who's Latinx, is an admirable character.

On the other hand, many have taken the movie to task for its naive depiction of heroic White characters (who also happen to be portrayed by two controversial actors) in a movie set in Puerto Rico, with Latinx villains. Moreover, the movie also depicts the cruel treatment of an animal, a big cat that goes largely unseen (perhaps a tiger?), but which is kept in a locked, windowless, dark room. Those things, coupled with moments of sheer disbelief -- one notable line is "those stairs only lead up," and there's some head-spinning dialogue about shooting frozen turkeys -- push Force of Nature just over to the negative side. It's too bad; just a little more forethought might have yielded a fun thriller.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Force of Nature's violence. How did it make you feel? How much is actually shown? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How does the movie represent various cultures? Are characters three-dimensional? Are there stereotypes? Why are stereotypes harmful?

  • Is the movie's treatment of the big cat fair, or cruel? Why?

  • Do you consider Jess a role model? Why or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love thrills

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