Daddy knows best.
John Link, is an ex-convict (Mel Gibson), who is just trying to get by in life. He runs a tattoo parlor out of his trailer, located somewhere in the outskirts of Southern California, attends local AA meetings, and most of all, hangs around his local trailer-park community, not trying to lose his cool after all of the crazy stuff that he’s seen or done. But now, it seems like life is coming back to bite him in the rear-end and this time, John may have to push back. After he gets a call from his estranged daughter, Lydia (Erin Moriarty), he has to grab her, get her out of trouble, and basically, go on the run from her drug-dealing boyfriend (Diego Luna) and his vicious cartel of ruthless, sometimes toothless gang of thugs who go around the state, shooting anything, or anyone that resembles John or Lydia. Because why? Because why the hell not!
With Taken having ended its franchise last year (even though there’s supposed to be a TV-adaptation out soon), it seems like the “old-guy-goes-around-killing-people” sort of sub-genre is coming to its demise, so to speak. Sean Penn’s the Gunman was a notorious bomb, Bruce Willis had a movie out this year called Precious Cargo that nobody saw and apparently, followed roughly the same plot-line, and now, we have Mel Gibson in the old guy game, with Blood Father. And while that may sound like a running-joke on some sort of annoying podcast, I kid you not, it isn’t.
In fact, Blood Father is quite the real deal.
It’s the kind of stinky, schlocky and silly B-movie thriller that all of those other movies I mentioned tried so desperately hard to be, but yet, were far too serious and “meaningful”, to even come close to. Blood Father is the kind of movie that winks a lot at the audience, knows what it is, doesn’t pretend to be much else other than what it is, and most importantly, get its job done in under 90 minutes. Most of those other movies I mentioned earlier, almost all clock in at two hours and yet, they still don’t quite hit the same highs as Blood Father does in its first five minutes, let alone, its whole 88 minutes or so.
Does that mean it’s perfect? No, not at all. But what it does mean is that director Jean-Francois Richet knows exactly what he’s making and isn’t trying to settle for anything more, or anything less. While it was definitely a huge risk casting Mel Gibson in a lead role, especially when all you really want for your low-budget, independent thriller is recognition and attention, he makes up for it in taking a balls-to-the-walls style that barely lets up. In a way, that can sort of come back to bite him; the moments that the movie does settle itself down to have conversations between daddy and daughter, it feels like it’s checking off something on a list. It’s as if the movie knows that it has to have this stuff, in order to tell a good story and keep the plot moving, even if, to be honest, it doesn’t totally work.
That said, the energy, excitement and absolute craziness of the action here is hard to ignore. Richet knows how to shoot an action-sequence, without doing non-stop cutaways and fast-edits to make it seem more hectic than it actually is – sometimes, a simple close-up or tilt will do just fine and get the same feeling across. He showed the same thing in his remake of Assault on Precinct 13 and not much has changed here, what with Blood Father is always moving somewhere and barely ever stopping, except for, like I mentioned, when it does.
And you know what? Say what you will about him, his personal life, his beliefs, and what he’s said to cops, Mel Gibson is still a movie star, dammit.
Sure, Hollywood may have forgotten about him and shooed-him away as the drunk Uncle nobody really talks to, or keeps in contact with, except for when it’s absolutely necessary, like at Thanksgiving, but Gibson himself hasn’t forgotten about himself, nor has he let go of what made him such a compelling actor in the first place. All that rough, tough and gruff that was there before, is still here and even as he gets older, there’s something inherently charming, even exciting about watching a middle-aged Gibson curse, shoot and kill his way through whatever stands in his way. He looks crazy and you know what? The movie makes him appear as such, too, and it’s hard not to love this character, everything he does, or says, even if you know, full well, that he’s got to get his morals in-check.
The rest of the cast is pretty solid, too, with random bit-players showing up in key roles and making this seem more like a joint-affair and not just “Mel Gibson owns the world”. Erin Moriarty may not be the best actor for this role as Lydia, but her character’s at least more believable than whatever the hell Maggie Grace’s was doing and/or saying in the Taken movies, so she’s already winning; Michael Parks and Dale Dickey show up as Gibson’s former pals from back in his bad boy days and are both perfectly slimy and icky; Diego Luna’s villainous character is cheesy, especially after he suspiciously comes back to life after what seems like a life-ending gun-shot to the dome in the first five minutes, but still does what he can; and William H. Macy, as Gibson’s buddy/sponsor, Kirby, is as perfect as they come and in all honesty, a better movie would have just said “screw you” to all of the violence and killing and just focused on the budding friendship between Kirby and Link.
Then again, probably not, because all of the violence and killing is pretty rad.
Consensus: Crazy, wild and never pretending to be something it isn’t, Blood Father is chock full of B-movie goodies, with a gruff, but engaging Mel Gibson tying it all up.
7 / 10
And oh yeah, intimidating, slightly dangerous Mel. The one we all know and, sometimes, love.
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire