Monday, March 04, 2013

Films of Michael Caine: Blood and Wind [1997]

Cast: Jack Nicholson (Alex Gates), Stephen Dorff (Jason), Jennifer Lopez (Gabriela), Judy Davis (Suzanne), Michael Caine (Victor Spansky), Harold Perrineau Jr (Henry), Robyn Peterson (Dina Reese), Mike Starr (Mike), John Seitz (Frank Reese).

Crew: Bob Rafelson (director), Jeremy Thomas (producer), Nick Villiers and Alison Cross (writers), Michal Lorenc (music), Newton Thomas Sigel (cinematography), Steven Cohen (editor), Richard Sylbert (production designer).

Synopsis: Miami wine dealer Alex Gates plans to steal a diamond necklace worth $1 million from a wealthy family. He is having an affair with their illegal immigrant nanny, Gabriela. Alex’s relationship with his wife Suzanne and adult step-son Jason is falling apart. Aided by English safecracker Victor, Alex steals the necklace. Jason gets romantically involved with Gabriela. Alex hides the necklace in a suitcase. Before he can leave, Alex gets into a fight with Suzanne. She beats him with a cane, knocking Alex out.

Suzanne flees, taking Jason and the suitcase. Jason finds the necklace and uses a stone from it to buy a fishing boat. Alex and Victor pursue Suzanne and Jason. Suzanne dies in a car crash. Alex murders his partner in crime. Jason has a final meeting with Alex and Gabriela on the boat. Jason gives the necklace to Gabriela, who leaves. Alex beats his step-son, but Jason uses the boat to crush Alex’s legs. Gabriela returns and gives the necklace to Alex, keeping one diamond for herself. Jason leaves in the boat while Gabriela drives away. Approaching sirens are closing in …


Blood and Wine started as a story written by director Bob Rafelson and Nick Villiers. Rafelson had worked with Jack Nicholson on several previous movies, most notably the Oscar-nominated Five Easy Pieces (1970). But he never intended for Nicholson to appear in Blood and Wine. ‘I didn’t have Jack in mind, I just had the idea for the script,’ the director told Time Out in 1997. ‘I wanted to do it as a very low-budget movie and I knew I couldn’t afford Jack. So I asked him, as a friend, to read with other actors and tell me what he thought.’ Eventually Nicholson put himself forward for the leading role.

Caine was semi-retired by the mid-1990s. ‘I took a lot of time out and wrote my autobiography,’ he told Candis magazine in 2000. ‘I got lazy and I didn’t want to go back to making movies. And then when I did, nobody knew who the hell I was. I couldn’t get a job – not a good one, though I knew I could make money by doing bad scripts. I’m sent a lot of those.’ Between 1993 and 1996 only one film featuring Caine got a cinema release – the Steven Seagal vehicle On Deadly Ground (1994). ‘Finally I got Blood and Wine. It was a movie I wasn’t ashamed of.’

‘If you’re an actor and you don’t act for a long time you sort of think, I wonder if I can still do it?’ Caine said during a public interview with Barry Norman at the National Film Theatre (NFT) in 1998. Frustrated with the quality of film scripts he was getting, Caine appeared in two historical TV projects as Joseph Stalin and F W de Klerk to test his acting abilities. He was nominated for an Emmy award for both performances. ‘Then I got Blood and Wine … I did that as another little test.’ Caine had opened a restaurant in Miami. Nicholson and Rafelson visited and asked Caine to play safecracker Victor.

‘I’ve known them for 20, 30 years,’ Caine told Hello in 1999. ‘They walked into the restaurant one day and said, “Well, you’re here. Do you want to be in the movie?” It wasn’t a very big part, but Jack and I had never worked together, and I love Bob’s work. So I agreed. And I had so much fun. Work became a joy again.’ The $26 million film was shot on location in Florida.

Released in the US during February 1997 with an R rating, Blood and Wine grossed a disappointing $1 million. A month later it opened in Britain, rated 15. The film received mixed reviews from critics, but Caine’s performance was widely praised. The picture’s biggest success was in Spain, where it grossed nearly $1.4 million. Caine won the best actor award at the San Sebastián Film Festival, despite only having a supporting role. The film was released on VHS in the UK and US during 1997. The picture made its DVD debut in the US last year.

Reviews: ‘When you have two pros like Jack Nicholson and Michael Caine, can much go wrong? Of course not. What the film lacks is any reason why we should care for anyone in it’ - The Evening Standard
‘Caine hasn’t been as watchable for ages as the wheezing old crook… Everyone’s good, but it’s less than the sum of its watchable parts’ – The Guardian

Verdict: Blood and Wine would pass without much notice if it didn’t have such a great cast. The film looks great, with Lorenc’s subtle score underlining the ominous, downbeat mood. Caine is excellent, giving his best performance for nearly a decade as the wheezing, flailing Victor. He communicates the character’s desperation and fear through every gesture. Sadly, he is the best thing about Blood and Wine. Polite and anaemic, the film lacks the body or iron of its namesakes.

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