Tribeca 2023 Review: BLOOD FOR DUST, Fueled by Desperation

Scoot McNairy, Kit Harington, and Josh Lucas star in a moody crime thriller, directed by Rod Blackhurst.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
Tribeca 2023 Review: BLOOD FOR DUST, Fueled by Desperation

I really, really need a job. On second thought ....

Blood For Dust
The film enjoyed its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. It is available to watch via the Tribeca At Home platform until July 2.

Fueled by desperation, Cliff needs a job.

A salesman by trade and experience, he trawls the midwestern United States, an exhausted Willy Loman, weighed down by memories that haunt him as he trudges through the winter landscape, trying to make a sale. All he wants to do is provide for his family, but his mysterious past has caught up with him, causing him to lose his last lousy job.

The lights are flickering and are about to go out, as symbolized by Cliff's habit of visiting sleazy strip clubs, where he goes, not to partake in any illicit activities to forget his troubles, but ... to eat! Who goes to a strip club to eat? Only the truly lonely, who know that no one will disturb them while they eat a meal, alone at the bar.

Into such a club strides Ricky, an old "friend" who most definitely gives off a smarmy air as he offers the desolate Cliff an opportunity to make some money. We suspect it's an insincere offer that will lead to trouble, and Cliff knows that Ricky is not to be trusted, yet still.

Cliff needs a job.

Directed by Rod Blackhurst and scripted by David Ebeltoft, from a story credited to both of them, Blood For Dust opens with a bloody, bloody crime scene, establishing a moody tone that is sustained throughout the running time. Simultaneously, it turns up the heat slowly but surely, keeping the bleak atmosphere simmering as Cliff slowly runs out of options.

Scoot McNairy is a master of the slow burn, and here he accomplishes that on a canvas stretched tight by circumstance. His character, Cliff, wants to be a good husband to his wife Amy, a devoutly religious woman who may be losing faith in him. She wants him to succeed and offers him emotional support, to the best of her abilities, but Cliff keeps things to himself as he burns out from the expectations of caring for his family materially.

McNairy manifests his internal pressures in tiny facial gestures and in his body language. He's in great distress, even if doesn't manifest his emotional strain in the expected fashion: he's not a drunkard or a lout, and he doesn't beat his wife or mistreat anyone, as far as we can see. He's a good guy who's made a few bad mistakes, and now he doesn't know how to overcome his past missteps.

Kit Harrington is a slick sort as Ricky, who barely tries to mask his own imagined superiority, even though he gives in to fear when faced with forces that have the advantage over him. Despite this, Ricky still imagines that he is superior to others, and is a good enough salesman that he is able to convince Cliff to throw in his lot with him.

The film is very much a moody suspense piece that continually darkens and intensifies. As dramatized by that bloody opening sequence, though, when the blood comes, it tends to gush out in a dramatic rush of violence, to the point that it doesn't really matter who is doing what to whom, and why, it's just that guns are blasting and survival is more a matter of chance than anything else.

Disquieting and ever urgent, Blood For Dust reminds that job opportunities in the criminal world don't come with any guaranteed benefits. Except maybe retirement: the permanent kind.

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Josh LucasKit HaringtonRod BlackhurstScoot McNairyUS

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