By Seth Lukas Hynes
Earth and Blood
Starring Sami Bouajila, Sofia Lesaffre and Eriq Ebouaney
Earth and Blood is a tense but unfocused French thriller in which Saïd (Sami Bouajila) must defend his sawmill from a group of gangsters after he finds their cocaine stashed on his property.
Director Julien Leclercq does an effective job of maintaining tension on separate fronts: the central raid on the sawmill, and Saïd’s daughter (Sofia Lesaffre) fleeing through the woods. The violence is brutal but fleeting and serves the plot, the performances feel authentically low-key, and Bouajila is compelling as a weary but laser-focused older action lead. Saïd is well-trained and resourceful, but the gangsters are still a formidable, organised threat.
While the raid is suspenseful and builds to a nervewracking climax, the overall film takes far too long to get going. Earth and Blood’s first-act set-up fills almost half of the run-time and contains several redundant plot-threads, such as Saïd selling the sawmill and his lung cancer diagnosis.
The sawmill has a vague layout, rendering the raid hard to follow, and the film contains several disorienting cuts and a generic, often overwrought score.
With strong performances, grueling suspense but severely-backloaded pacing, Earth and Blood epitomizes the expression “it gets better later”, and is available for streaming on Netflix.