August 2022

Blood Father (2016)

DIRECTOR: Jean-Francois Richet

CAST: Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna, William H. Macy, Michael Parks


One suspects this gritty but generic action thriller would have been direct-to-video if not for the presence of Mel Gibson, but while Blood Father is an unexceptional, sporadically involving Taken variation that never really rises above its B movie level, it provides an adequately diverting entry in its genre for those who have eighty-eight minutes to kill and aren’t too demanding.

Gibson plays John Link, an over-the-hill ex-con and recovered alcoholic whose ex-wife won’t speak to him, whose daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty) is a face on a milk carton, and who lives in a trailer park in what looks like the middle of the desert alongside his neighbor and AA sponsor Kirby (William H. Macy).  But one day, the destitute ex-con gets a phone call from Lydia, pleading for help and money.  Link shows up, but Lydia is in more trouble than he knows, pursued by Mexican drug cartel goons connected to her boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna).  Father and daughter set off on a road trip that includes a little grudging bonding time interspersed with dispatching some bad guys.

Unsurprisingly, the best thing about Blood Father is Mel Gibson.  Looking aged and grizzled behind an unkempt beard, his muscular and tattooed body on display, Gibson is at the point, after his well-publicized personal issues, where his real-life persona serves to feed into, rather than distract from, the haggard man onscreen.  Whatever one’s feelings about the real man, Gibson shows he is still capable of a charismatic screen presence tinged with a lifetime of accumulated regrets and demons occasionally flaring into explosive fury (art imitating life?  Perhaps, but here it’s effective) as well as proving that Liam Neeson is not the only sixty-something actor who can brutally beat up bad guys.  Gibson is the only cast member who really stands out; Erin Moriarty is adequate as his troubled daughter, while Diego Luna and William H. Macy don’t have a lot of screentime and veteran actor Michael Parks pops up as a neo-Nazi survivalist.

The script by Peter Craig and Andrea Berloff tries to be a little more poetic than the dialogue we might expect in simple straightforward action flicks.  Gibson’s gravelly voice rattles off one-liners like “every skill I have and everyone I’ve ever known is a parole violation”, Michael Parks launches into an impromptu survivalist monologue, and there’s some effective conversations between Link and Lydia.  Jean-Francois Richet gives the action a gritty look, with its wide open desert expanses, but the action bits are generic and sometimes clumsily choreographed (though one, where Gibson causes a motorcyclist henchman to have a head-on collision with a semi, seems too obvious a Mad Max nod to be a coincidence).

Ultimately, Blood Father stays at its B movie direct-to-video level souped up by the presence of Mel Gibson, but if nothing else, it gives the troubled actor-director a chance to show he’s still got it in front of the camera.  It’s hard to dispute that that’s the most memorable quality of Blood Father.

* * 1/2