“Blood for Dust” is a moody film that examines upwards mobility in America, yet the movie struggles to give you a reason to care for its protagonist.

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Director(s) Rod Blackhurst
Screenplay By Rod Blackhurst and David Ebeltoft
Based On N/A
Date Released (Film Festival ) June 2023
Genre(s) Action, Crime, Drama
Duration 1 hr 38 mins
Content Rating Not Rated
Noted Cast
Cliff Scoot McNairy
Ricky Kit Harington

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Film Summary

“Blood for Dust” is a bleak tale of what we endure for nothing. Some people’s struggles, pain, and never-ending work become precisely what the title states: dust. The same can be said for Cliff.

Cliff struggles to make a living selling defibrillators. After his boss discovers that he was involved with some illegal activity in Meridian, he’s fired and left to frantically find a new job. While Cliff (Scott McNairy) just wants a new legitimate life for his family, he’s tempted by an old friend, Ricky (played by Kit Harington), who has turned further to a life of crime but has more wealth than Cliff could imagine.

Ricky offers Cliff a new job as an arms dealer, and Cliff feels he has no choice but to accept. His life quickly spirals out of control as he learns that his life is meaningless to this cartel. When a deal goes wrong and winds up in a shootout that leaves five people dead, Cliff is subjected to Ricky’s mercy. Ricky has a larger plan to screw over his boss, and Cliff is trapped inside the plan.

As the two confront each other and Cliff openly questions if Ricky will kill him, we learn more about their Meridian scheme. There were at least two others involved, and one man, Mark, killed himself soon after. We learn that Cliff once had an affair with Mark’s ex-wife. Cliff is riddled with guilt, yet like a man about to meet his maker, he is somber and accepting of whatever comes next. Unbeknownst to Ricky, Cliff calls his boss over a payphone and informs him that Ricky plans to screw him over.

“Blood for Dust” is directed with a deep understanding of its world in cold, dreary Montana. You feel the cold coming from the scene. It’s all mood, a grim state gripped by real and imagined fears. The film occasionally critiques the state of the US: all salespeople looking to get what’s theirs. “Blood for Dust” may have a clear focus on its tone and message, yet it doesn’t have a firm grasp on Cliff, the man at the center of it all. Without focusing on why the audience should care or be engaged by its protagonist, “Blood for Dust” becomes a series of bleak scenes that jumble together.

blood for dust 1

Things To Note

While Blood for Dust is Currently Not Rated, It Includes: 

  • Dialogue: Strong profanity throughout
  • Violence: Shootouts and murders throughout
  • Sexual Content: One scene in a strip joint that shows nudity
  • Miscellaneous:

Character Descriptions

Please Note: This character guide is not an exhaustive list of every cast member, and character descriptions may contain what can be considered spoilers.


A struggling salesman who’s trying to start a new life. While Cliff has had a criminal past, he wants to do good for his family. But when he reconnects with an old friend, he learns there’s no escaping ghosts.


As a pragmatic yet devious criminal, Ricky keeps his cards close to his chest and isn’t afraid to dispose of anyone who gets in his way, including Cliff. Ricky understands his days selling firearms are numbered, and he wants one last giant score but needs Cliff in order to pull it off.


Our Rating: Mixed (Divisive) 

bood for dust
Cliff (Scoot McNairy) confronts his friend and captor Ricky (Kit Harington).


Strong Grasp of Atmosphere Immerses Viewers into this Crime World

Some of the best scenes in “Blood for Dust” are when Cliff drives through Montana, and the audience sees the cold, barren landscape. It’s the perfect setting to represent how Cliff feels inside. Filmed on location, the cinematography perfectly captures the hard, wrinkled faces and snowy grounds in this dead world waiting for spring. The viewer may not always understand what’s happening in “Blood for Dust,” but they feel the tension and bleakness in every frame.

On The Fence

Unclear Grasp of Protagonist Cliff

“What is Cliff good at, and why is he wanted?” is a question that is never answered. I understand many of us aren’t noteworthy for anything, and we should empathize with Cliff’s mere struggle to provide for his family. But despite Scott McNairy’s tightened grim earnestness, Cliff doesn’t get a chance to shine. While he talks about being a salesman, we never see him sell anything. While he’s wanted on Ricky’s mission, why Ricky pursues him over anyone else is unclear since he’s clearly not experienced or educated in the cartel world. Cliff is a spectator to this world and action; even while immersed in it, he is no more valuable than the audience watching him.

Stoic Characters All Blend In

There are plenty of great actors in this project. Scoot McNairy, Ethan Suplee, and Kit Harington all deliver the proper stoicism and hardened faces required for this crime tale. Yet so does every other actor. “Blood for Dust” depicts a world with little hope, but since everyone more or less acts the same, audiences might have difficulty distinguishing who each character is, what they’re saying, and what’s really significant to the story.

How Does It End?

After Cliff calls Ricky’s boss about his doublecrossing, the boss appears with guns blazing. Ricky and Cliff are able to shoot and kill many of the stooges, and in a brief, fun callback, Cliff uses his unsold defibrillators on Ricky’s boss, killing him. Cliff ends up in a showdown with Ricky and fatally shoots his old friend. Ricky offers the suitcase of money, which Cliff uses to give to Mark’s ex-wife.

bood for dust
Blood for Dust (2023) – Movie Review and Summary (with Spoilers)
"Blood for Dust" is a good watch for a cold winter day, when you want to be engaged by something dark. Yet because of its lack of developed characters, don't expect to remember much after viewing it.
Strong Grasp of Atmosphere Immerses Viewers into this Crime World
Unclear Grasp of Protagonist Cliff
Stoic Characters All Blend In

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