Blood for Dust Review | A Gritty Crime Thriller with Great Acting

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From director Rod Blackhurst, working off a dynamite script he wrote with David Ebeltoft, Blood for Dust has been described as “Breaking Bad meets Fargo” by Variety. Not too far off, and a number of gritty neo-noir classics might also come to mind as you watch lead actor Scoot McNairy (True Detective, The Comey Rule) simply nail the protagonist role of Cliff, an everyman salesman who gets in too deep while trying to earn a buck amid desperate times. Aren’t we all?




Taking us back to the 1990s, specifically in the tri-state area of the U.S., Blood for Dust features consistently solid performances and a thought-provoking statement about how low we might sink to make a dollar and provide for our families. We’ve seen this kind of story play out before, but the universal themes of economic hardship and great cast make this worth watching.


A Killer Cast: McNairy, Harington, Lucas, Suplee, Dorff

Blood for Dust

Blood for Dust

4/5

Release Date
April 19, 2024

Director
Rod Blackhurst

Runtime
1h 38m

Writers
David Ebeltoft

Pros

  • Poignant themes of economic desperation are well expressed.
  • An excellent cast give great performances in an anxiety-inducing thriller.
Cons

  • It’s a bit predictable and lacks a powerful identity of its own.


Sadly, fan-favorite actor Kit Harington won’t be getting a Jon Snow Game of Thrones spinoff, but that’s A-OK because he’s keeping busy with other high-caliber projects. Exhibit A is Blood for Dust, where his wildcard persona Ricky is miles away from his beloved hero in HBO’s award-winning series. Ricky enlists struggling family man Cliff (McNairy) to help with a drug-running operation that’s orchestrated by hotheaded mob boss John (Josh Lucas, reminding us of his acting range in a way we haven’t seen for years). Watch out for a terrifying “job interview” where Ricky brings in Cliff to meet John and be vetted for the gig.

But before all this, we get a sneak peek at what led Cliff to such dangerous ordeals. We see him tragically lose his sales job once his boss (Chris Mullinax) finds out about some sort of criminal dealings from years earlier that Cliff may have been tied to. Cliff scrolls through his rolodex and tries to land a new day job, but no one, including former colleague Gus (the always appealing Stephen Dorff) will hire him. “I don’t need a salesman,” he says. But is that really why? Cliff might just be what they call “radioactive,” sadly enough.


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The list of standout supporting performances in Blood for Dust goes on. Watch out for a fierce, slimmed-down Ethan Suplee (The Wolf of Wall Street), who millennials might not be able to recognize from his days as the massive bully on Disney’s hit show Boy Meets World. In his new film, Cartel boss John enlists one of his guys, Slim (Suplee), to tag along with Cliff for the assigned job. Slim is all business and furrowed brows, constantly watching his six as Cliff cruises across the tri-state area to transport a car trunk full of mysterious goods. Are they being followed? Is Cliff out of the loop on what’s really going on?


How to Make It in ’90s America

Regardless of whether you know where this is all going, there are at least a couple of false alarms and red herrings that will keep you gnawing at your fingernails throughout Blood for Dust. Co-writer/director Blackhurst isn’t trying to make this a Hallmark Christmas experience, in case you were wondering. Once Cliff and Slim are out on the job, you don’t have to be a film expert to foresee things going awry. Reckless Ricky resurfaces, of course — with a face like Harington’s, you can’t keep him off-screen for too long, even if he’s donning obnoxious facial hair. Chaos further ensues.


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In real-world modern America, one could argue it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, with inflation and heated politics isolating people and communities from each other. Massive layoffs are plaguing the headlines, and we catch similar economic vibes watching a ’90s-centered thriller like Blood for Dust. McNairy also starred in Killing Them Softly (2012), which similarly made powerful statements about the difficult times we live in here in the U.S. of A. Cliff’s scenes with wife Amy (Nora Zehetner) might strike a nerve with all the money-is-tight lads out there who’ve had to have those difficult chats with their spouses about career setbacks, failed prospects and more.


A Predictable but Still Thrilling Movie

Blood for Dust has a contained, indie feel to it — with budget restraints perhaps preventing the end result from being that much more impactful — but still succeeds with necessary thrills, including a shootout sequence during the increasingly tense third act. The specific turn of events leading to said shootout, however, is a bit too predictable.

But it’s still a hoot to watch the overwhelmed Cliff try to claw his way out of this crime-fueled mess of his. Once a crook, always a crook? Maybe. But as a protagonist, he offers a layered take on the “good guy” notion, leaving us questioning what we might resort to in times of desperate need.


From The Avenue, Blood for Dust is now playing in select theaters and on digital. You can rent it on Apple TV below:

Watch Blood for Dust

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