Movie Review: Blood Father (2016)
“A Father Makes His Own Justice”
Blood Father (2016)
Director: Jean-François Richet
Cast: Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna
Synopsis: An ex-con is reunited with his daughter, who is on the run from a drugs gang that wants her dead.
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Ageing bad boy Mel Gibson (Braveheart, Machete Kills) plays ageing bad boy John Link in Jean-Francois Richet’s refreshingly tough thriller, Blood Father, and the film’s opening lines, spoken by Link at a group counseling session in which he expresses regret over his past misdeeds and speaks of a lingering resentment at having to forsake his past ways in order to acquire a last shot at redemption, could just as easily have come from the troubled Gibson himself. Link is an ex-con, a former Hell’s Angel and reformed alcoholic who scratches out a living giving tattoos in the beat-up trailer he calls home. He stays clean because he knows that he’d probably be back in maximum security within hours of a bottle touching his lips. He also wants to find his daughter, Lydia (Erin Moriarty), now seventeen, who ran away from home while he was doing time. As luck would have it, she contacts him when she finds herself on the run from the ruthless drugs gang, of which the boyfriend she sort of accidentally shot is a member, and which now wants her dead. Reunited, father and daughter slowly work towards re-establishing the bond that was broken by Link’s former life as they try to give the pursuing gang the slip.
Whatever you might think of Mel Gibson as a human being, there’s few that would deny that he remains a competent and charismatic actor. He’s certainly not vain: his face is old beyond its years – the legacy of an enduring battle with alcoholism – but he’s not afraid to show every crack and seam on the screen. Dressed in regulation biker outfit of dirty jeans and cut-off shirt, and sporting the kind of scruffy beard in which one might reasonably expect to find scraps of his last meal, Link is a character emerging from years of darkness, but who still harbours within him the instrument of his own destruction. He’s no conventional hero, but he’s one which the tough screenplay from Peter Craig (on whose novel it is based) and Andrea Berloff makes it easy to admire, and ironically, it is the violent past which he is seeking to escape that provides him with the necessary skills and temperament to deal with the kind of people from whom his daughter is fleeing.
Unfortunately, none of the care that has gone into developing Link’s character has been given to his daughter Lydia, who, through no fault of Moriarty’s, feels like she has wandered in from a far inferior movie in the vain hope of being given shape and substance. A child of the streets with a knowledge of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Lydia has less trouble coming off drugs than most people would when giving up caffeine. On different occasions, Link refers to her as having ‘the mindset of a battered housewife’ and of being ‘every loser’s lucky day,’ which are good lines, but which in no way apply to the girl we see on the screen.
Despite this inconsistency of characterisation, Blood Father is a fast-paced, entertaining thriller which harks back to action movies from the 1990s, and which falters only when Richet gets a little too cute by fracturing the chronological flow on a couple of occasions for no good reason. Gibson holds the movie together with a strong, confident performance which shows that, no matter how troubled he might be in real life, he’s lost none of his presence on the screen.
(Reviewed 6th October 2016)