Bloodline (Henry Jacobson, 2019 ) 3 out of 4 stars.
How many people in our lives that we trust do we actually really know, inside and out? Do we know their light side and their dark side? Do we know what our doctors do at night after their office closes? Do we know what our teachers, professors, or bosses do after the day is done? Do we know what our therapists do after our sessions are long over? We only really know one dimension of most of these people: the professional side that we see for maybe an hour or two a day. What are they like outside those hours? Unless you’re lucky enough to have a non-professional relationship with any of these people, chances are we may never know.
Bloodline explores this concept well with its main character. Sean William Scott (American Pie) stars as Evan: a social worker by day, dedicated husband and father by evening, and killer by night. Scott’s performance as Evan is creepy, chilling, and perfectly fitting. Evan maintains an appropriate professional persona while at work at a local high school as a counselor/social worker, sympathizing with kids having specific trouble at home, and is a loving and caring husband when he gets home from work. He helps to deal with his and his wife’s newborn son who is driving them both up a wall with constant crying and other normal baby challenges. Yet, even as normal as he seems in both of these circumstances, there is just something off about him.
Through various flashbacks we see that Evan had a rough childhood with an abusive father, which explains why he is so sympathetic towards the kids he talks to at his high school. These kids have fathers or father figures that physically and/or sexually abuse them. Evan’s sympathy soon turns to anger as he takes matters into his own hands. Convinced that he is helping these poor kids, Evan makes it a priority to find their abusive fathers, question them about their behavior, and then brutally kill them. He is careful to hide any evidence, but suspicion is rising. Can Evan maintain the balance of his normal daily life while continuing to live at night as a killer vigilante?
This film’s premise is so interesting to me and is the film’s greatest strength. Bloodline is a character study more than a horror film. I actually wouldn’t consider this film horror at all; I’d say it’s more of a suspenseful drama with some brutal scenes. Director Henry Jacobson delivers a film with good pacing, an unusual but nevertheless interesting tone, and high production values. The cinematography in Bloodline is pristine, the score is fitting and well-done, and the writing is clever, if at times convenient. However, the main star of the show is the editing. The film has a few fast-paced montages similar to those used in the revered Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000). It also uses split screen, smart and shocking transitions, and is overall simply paced very well.
Bloodline’s script contains a bit too many conveniences, however. Evan’s wife Lauren is often clueless to his actions, even when he wakes her on multiple different occasions coming back to bed after a night out killing. Evan also always seems to know where to find these deadbeat dads, and not at the houses they live at either. The film never alludes to how he knows where these people will be at an exact moment. In fact, it seems like in one particular case one of these dads just stumbles into Evan. Convenient, isn’t it? But, for the number of conveniences the script includes, it also includes an equal amount of surprises, twists, and turns that leave you guessing and never sure what is going to happen next. On multiple occasions in the film I thought a scene was going to go in a direction I’ve seen so many times before in other movies, but Bloodline took a sudden turn and left me pleasantly surprised.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed Bloodline. It had enough surprises to keep it from getting too repetitive, a well-conceived dark undertone, and great editing. Some of the performances were over the top, and a few were underwhelming, but Scott’s performance as Evan, and Evan’s whole backstory in general, carried the film. It’s far from a perfect movie and some may be bothered by the ease with which some things happen, but at its core, Bloodline is a great character study about a man with a troubled past who wants what is best for his family and other families, and does some unspeakable things in order to, in his mind, accomplish that goal. So, the next time you visit your doctor, talk to your boss, or especially have a session with your therapist, just hope they don’t take your problems too personally.