Blood Father (2016) / Thriller-Action
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, language throughout and brief drug use
Running Time: 88 min.
Cast: Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna, William H. Macy, Michael Parks, Miguel Sandoval, Dale Dickey, Thomas Mann
Director: Jean-Francois Richet
Screenplay: Peter Craig, Andrea Berloff (based on the novel by Peter Craig)
Review published September 3, 2016
Adapted from the 2005 pulp novel by Peter Craig, who co-scripts with Andrea Berloff, Blood Father casts a weathered Mel Gibson (The Expendables 3, Machete Kills) as a former alcoholic tattoo artist ex-con divorcee named John Link, who's spent the last few years mostly off the grid in a trailer park in California's Coachella Valley (shot in New Mexico). He has been anxiously searching for his 17-year-old daughter, Lydia (Moriarty, Captain Fantastic), who ran away at 14.
She re-enters his life soon enough, desperately looking for money to make her getaway when she ends up shooting her ne'er-do-well boyfriend, Jonah (Luna, The Book of Life), during an armed heist, causing others in his criminal organization tied to the drug cartels from Mexico to come after her. Fatherly instincts, and a resurgence of dormant survival skills picked up from his days as a not-so-nice-guy, kick in when the bad guys come around.
Directed by Jean-Francois Richet in his first English language film since the 2005 remake of Assault on Precinct 13, Blood Father takes a violent, hard-nosed approach, setting up just enough to get us invested in where the story goes, then riding a wave of speeding cars, blazing guns, and dark comedy quipping throughout. The main appeal of the film comes from the committed performance from Mel Gibson, who may have publicly disgraced himself from mainstream Hollywood roles in the eyes of many, but his refreshingly loose, but alternately intense turn in Blood Father is a keen reminder that he definitely has the acting chops and screen presence to still play a compelling leading man.
In a way, one can read into the film as resembling real life, as the movie starts off with Gibson's character vowing to continue his road to rehabilitation, while his character also confronts intolerance, not only within himself, but also in other people who trades blows with along the way. The other performances are a bit of a moot issue, but the thespians, as cast, do have a good rapport with Gibson, which elevates the quirk engrained in the cleverly punchy screenplay.
Blood Father may not be much more than a b-movie genre flick without much reach beyond fans of action-fueled road thrillers, but those that do make these kinds of movies a regular part of their movie-watching experience will likely find it entertaining for its 88-minute run time. It won't go down as Gibson's best, but it's better than what he's been doing the last few years. I'd recommend this over aging-star revenge thrillers like The Gunman or any film in the Taken series, so if you enjoyed those, give Blood Father a look.
©2016 Vince Leo