Mel Gibson is back in the hot seat for his new movie Force of Nature. The controversial actor stars as a retired police officer refusing to leave his home in Puerto Rico during a Category 5 hurricane. The trailer was published by PEOPLE on Monday, and some viewers are already not liking its portrayal of Puerto Rico, especially in light of the island's recent experience with storms.
The trailer for Force of Nature appears to show three main characters in the forefront: an older man named Ray (Gibson), his daughter Troy (Kate Bosworth), and the police officer trying to evacuate them (Emile Hirsch). Viewers could not help but notice that these main characters are all white, though the villains attacking them are not. As Ray refuses to leave the building, it is revealed that he was waiting to stop a massive heist, turning the movie into a combination of a disaster flick and a thriller.
Viewers picked this trailer apart at once. To start with, many thought it was a glaring mistake to set a movie in Puerto Rico yet cast so many white actors in the lead roles. They also thought it made matters worse to cast Latino actors as the criminals, especially since it fueled connotations of looting and other sour stereotypes.
Moreover, many people took issue with the idea of a disaster movie set in Puerto Rico at this time in general. The island is still recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that hit in 2017. That disaster caused a humanitarian crisis with incalculable ripple effects, and in many ways Puerto Rico is still on the mend.
The real lasting damage of Hurricane Maria was due to the slow response of the American federal government, many pundits say. At the time, the relief group Oxfam called the government's response "slow and inadequate," adding: "The U.S. has more than enough resources to mobilize an emergency response, but has failed to do so in a swift and robust manner."
For this reason, many viewers thought it was "tone-deaf" for Force of Nature to ignore these factors and create a narrative about corruption and looting when the community is still struggling to get back on its feet to this day. Of course, on top of all of that were snide remarks about Gibson himself, with some wondering why he was fighting so hard for a "comeback" after years of controversial racist and sexist comments in the press.
Umm a heist in the middle of a hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico with Mel Gibson saving the day? #ForceofNature feels too soon and tone deaf— Grete Suarez (@GreteSuarez) May 19, 2020
It’s outright disrespectful to the people who went through the traumatic experience that was Hurricane Maria, for Mel Gibson and any Hollywood company to come to Puerto Rico and make a movie where the islanders are the bad guys, and he and the white people are the good guys.— gile (@mvriegil) May 19, 2020
MEL GIBSON IS STARRING IN A MOVIE WHERE HE REFUSES TO EVACUATE HIS HOME IN PUERTO RICO THATS ABOUT TO BE HIT BY A CAT 5 HURRICANE?! WHAT IN THE CAUSACITY? WHOS IDEA WAS THIS?!?!?!!— 𝕕𝕖𝕧𝕚𝕝𝕖𝕥𝕥𝕖 ♡ (@deviIette) May 18, 2020
lmao 3,000 Puerto Ricans died after Hurricane Maria but sure let’s make a D-list movie set during the storm where the gringos are the good guys and the bad drug guys are the islanders, truly fuck offffffffhttps://t.co/8Cv9YWTnhm— Andrea González-Ramírez (@andreagonram) May 18, 2020
Questioning the Cast
Hurricane María was a nightmare for all of us and you’re going to release this trash during the beginning of the hurricane season. This is disrespectful for us and the memories of the thousands who passed away.— Sonyo (@danielrq15) May 19, 2020
Why in Puerto Rico?
Que es la que hay con Mel Gibson y una película de huracán? Y en PR?Like what? Too soon? pic.twitter.com/Nb6lijhD4a— Raquel Montanez (@rmontane1) May 18, 2020
Painful to see how tax breaks luring Hollywood films (and jobs) to Puerto Rico can produce films that disappear our very reality.
"Trauma Center" (2019) staring Bruce Willis
"Force of Nature" (2020) staring Mel Gibson
"AFTERSHOCK" (2021) staring Justin Bieber? https://t.co/fureVyKQIC— Andrew J. Padilla 🇵🇷 (@apadillafilm6) May 18, 2020