When a Category 5 hurricane hits Puerto Rico, Officer Cardillo and his partner, Officer Peña, are sent to evacuate everyone from an apartment building there. But they soon encounter two unexpected problems: an aging and ill-tempered ex-cop named Ray Barrett who doesn’t want to leave, and a band of thieves who planned a heist on the day of the hurricane.
Suffice it to say it’s not the kind of day Cardillo was looking for.
These days, hesitancy haunts Cardillo. A few years before, a police rendezvous went poorly, resulting in the death of his girlfriend, Jasmine. Meanwhile, Jess Peña eagerly seeks to establish herself as an officer with a trustworthy reputation. And she helps to redeem Cardillo by resurrecting his sense of duty as an officer when things quickly go from bad to worse at the apartment building.
First, a man named Griffin (whom the officers are escorting back to his apartment after an altercation at a grocery store), gets bitten badly by his dog. As the police try to find someone to help him, they come across recalcitrant Ray (who is not planning on evacuating) and his daughter, Troy, who’s a doctor.
Then there are those thieves. They’re looking for a vast sum of money supposedly hidden somewhere in the complex. And they will not hesitate to harm anyone and everyone in the building to get what they want.
Chased and shot at by the thieves, Cardillo and Troy try to navigate the apartment’s twisting hallways while keeping themselves and everyone else alive. It’s certainly more than they bargained for. But the thieves, led by a guy named John the Baptist, face some unexpected challenges, too … not the least of which is Ray Barrett.
We see that Cardillo’s traumatic history as a cop has left him cynical and hurting. At one point, for example, he complains to Peña that if they try to evacuate residents against their will, people will just get their badge names and file a complaint. But Peña argues back, saying that they have to do their job—which she believes is an important one at that.
Griffin, for his part, has a bad history with the police. But through his interactions with Cardillo and Peña, he comes to respect and appreciate cops in a new way. Cardillo visits Griffin in the hospital, and Griffin tells him, “Who would’ve thought I’d be this happy to see a cop walk through these doors.”
All in all, Cardillo experiences a sense of redemption in his career, largely through the support and optimism of Peña (and Troy as well). He’s also reminded that police officers are necessary and good for the communities and individuals they serve—even if sometimes that’s hard to recognize.
Elsewhere amid the turmoil of the hurricane, Troy and Ray attempt to mend their broken father-daughter relationship. Ray acknowledges that he has been harsh with Troy, and she tells him “I love you, Dad.”
Various characters repeatedly put their lives on the line for the sake of protecting or rescuing others.
The lead criminal calls himself John the Baptist. The reason behind this obviously sarcastic nickname is never explained.
We see a painting of the virgin Mary that’s splattered with blood after someone is shot in the head.
A brief flashback shows Cardillo making out with his girlfriend, Jasmine, in his car. Jasmine is clothed, but she is wearing a revealing tank top with her bra visible beneath it. Cardillo is in an undershirt. She sits on top of him, kisses him, and begs him not to answer a police radio call. The same flashback is replayed later in the movie.
We hear a brief slang reference to a woman having sex. Troy kisses Cardillo on the cheek. There’s a suggestive reference to someone’s crotch.
As you’d expect in an R-rated Mel Gibson movie, a hurricane of violence accompanies the action here.
Multiple people are shot or severely wounded. Innocent victims get shot in the head without warning, including a gruesome scene where a dead body lies on the apartment steps, and we see the blood run down with the rain. Blood smears the walls, and often marks people’s faces and bodies.
In a particularly disturbing moment, a man puts a gun in his mouth, apparently on the verge of committing suicide; but he ultimately decides not to do it.
Griffin’s monstrous dog attacks him, and we see the wound in detail when Troy stitches it up. Griffin’s dog attacks and kills another man, although it occurs offscreen. Multiple characters get shot, then stitched up.
Troy and Cardillo climb the scaffolding outside the building, and Troy jokes, “If I fall, shoot me. I don’t want to die in four hours of a brain hemorrhage.”
We see multiple fistfights. People are body-slammed against walls, and limbs get twisted. Peña is bound to a chair and violently kicked while held at gunpoint.
The criminals use explosives to break down doors. Ray and Peña find an apartment room stocked floor to ceiling with guns, and they eagerly load up on weapons.
Griffin trains his dog to attack police because of his bad history with them—a nod to our current moment’s racial tension between blacks and police. In his apartment, we see a ripped-up replica of a police officer. We eventually learn that he was accused by a police officer of committing a robbery because he fit the description (“black male, 18 to 40s”).
Force of Nature is likewise flooded with vulgar language. We hear the f-word about 75 times, the s-word 20 times and a– about 15 times. God is misused five times, three of which are paired with “d—.” Jesus’ name is misused once. Other vulgarities include “a–,” “h—,” “p-ssed,” “b–tard” and “b–ch.”
Ray takes the prescription pain medication OxyContin, which he calls “Oxies.” We see him dumping a vial of pills down his throat.
Peña brags to Ray about the time she caught a drug thief, saying that she found “93 baggies of crack cocaine” stuffed in his pants.
A white male calls the police because he sees Griffin taking all the meat from the grocery store and assumes a crime has been committed.
Ray later tells Peña why he refused to go to the hospital with his daughter Troy. He explains that the doctors want to perform a “fecal transplant” on him, in which a doctor “takes someone else’s s— and puts it in your body.”
Force of Nature may offer some intriguing elements, such as a stellar performance from Mel Gibson, beautiful shots of Puerto Rico and heart-pounding action. But the extreme violence and pervasive profanity that saturate this action film make it anything but family friendly.
The movie includes some redemptive themes, such as emphasizing the honor and respect police officers deserve for their service, as well as Cardillo’s personal sense of redemption at the close of the movie.
That said, don’t look for any satisfying reflections on dealing with racism in our culture. Griffin’s hatred for police, for instance, is never addressed with any depth. Instead, the movie seems to justify his anger. Likewise, characters here often try to resolve their problems with violence, profanity or both.
So if you are looking for an action-packed drama, you can probably skip this one and find satisfaction in another story that dispenses with so much foul language and pervasive violence.
Anne Ziegler studies English and music at Hillsdale College, and she’s serving this summer as an intern for Focus on the Family’s Parenting department. She enjoys living in mountainous Colorado on her summer and winter breaks when she’s not at school in the frigid Midwest. You can usually catch her baking bread or trying a new recipe she pulled from Pinterest (Mexican street tacos are a new favorite). She’ll listen to anything Classical, but she particularly fancies Rachmaninov and Chopin. Her favorite hobbies include practicing the piano, reading fantasy novels and taking walks.