If for nothing else, Wicked Blood fascinated me for blending two completely different genres — the crime drama and the quirky indie film. It stars former Little Miss Sunshine Abigail Breslin as Hannah, a precocious teen living with her drug-dealing uncle Donny and her sister Amber. She wants to be a family and have a good life, but she can’t escape under the controlling influence of Uncle Frank, the local crime boss who has Donny wrapped around his finger.
Before long Hannah cooks up a plan to work Uncle Frank and a local biker gang against each other. She gets a lot of mileage out of mistaken innocence, riding her bike around while manipulating the criminal element like so many chess pieces. She’s the Juno from the bad part of town, complete with heart-warming musical montages.
The juxtaposition works, and it makes me sad that they didn’t focus the advertising on it, because the name “Wicked Blood” doesn’t evoke anything beyond another dull gangster movie. Wicked Blood is actually a lot more dynamic than that. The mere fact that it takes the time to be deliberately paced or to pull away from the action speaks volumes. This is the seedy underbelly from the view of a teenager.
The film does still deal a little too heavily in cliches, especially when it makes the aforementioned chess metaphor about five times too many. Yes, we get it, she’s moving pawns around, she’s going for a checkmate, it’s symbolism that has been done to death.
Regardless, I was surprised by Wicked Blood. I was rooting for this little family by the end, and I wanted to see Hannah pull off her crazy plan. It may be a generic crime movie at its foundation, but Hannah gives it the necessary heart and soul to make it worth a watch.