Riding off the buzz surrounding his directorial comeback, Hacksaw Ridge, Mel Gibson's latest starring vehicle gets the spotlight.Blood Father, based on the novel by Peter Craig (who also co-wrote, with Ben Affleck, the screenplay for The Town), was originally prepped to be a Stallone vehicle a few years back, but during Gibson's dark years as an actor/director, blacklisted from Hollywood, it appeared as good a vehicle as any to get him back on the radar. After his unexpectedly enjoyable 2012 indie thriller Get the Gringo (which goes by the even more odd name How I Spent My Summer Vacation in the UK) turned out to be one of the most underrated films of that year, and after effective villainous turns in the marginally less effective sequels, Machete Kills and Expendables 3, Blood Father remained the only thing on his list of upcoming features.Taking more than a year languishing in post-production, it was finally released (beyond some Festival circuit coverage), somewhat surprisingly, theatrically in many domains, whilst other territories adopted an arguably more apt straight-to-video approach. The truth is that Blood Father, whilst showcasing some a passionate and committed Gibson on fine starring form, and whilst benefiting from a few solid supporting roles, is not quite the gem that Gringo was, and remains a semi-effective no-budget indie crime thriller with sparks of action and drama but a woefully terrible co-star who, more often than not, utterly derails the film, saps its good intentions, and pulls you right out of the movie. Introducing: Erin Moriarty.
Gibson's John Link is an ex-con, ex-alcoholic, ex-biker called upon to violate his parole and return to a life of crime and violence just to keep his estranged wayward teen daughter, Lydia, alive, after her time with a drug-dealing boyfriend ends in murder. With gang thugs and assassins on their tail, and the authorities looking for both of them, and with Lydia trying to shake her recently-adopted drug habit, and John trying to avoid picking up his recently-dropped alcohol habit, the two have precious little time to reconnect, fill in the missing years, and figure out a way to survive.
Right from the outset, Gibson appears to be on semi-autobiographical form with Blood Father, talking in his AA-meeting about the drunken behaviour that cost him his friends, his job, and much of his life. It's a nice way to set the tone, addressing perhaps the elephant in the room for many once-Gibson fans burnt by the last decade of messiness. It doesn't take long for the icon to draw you back into his leading work, proving as compelling and committed as ever, but, unfortunately, it doesn't take long for the second introductory story - relating to his daughter - to take you right back out. Moriarty is a terrible actress or, at the very least, terribly uncommitted to the role. You'll spend the first few minutes wondering how she was attempting to play the part; the next hour confused as to whether she was supposed to be coming off drugs or not – as if that would excuse the helterskelter performance (or lack thereof) – and the final act frustrated that such a potentially resonant little revenge-and-redemption flick could be so utterly undermined by one dour player.
Gibson's the reason you'll stay on this ride; Moriarty the reason you'll want to get off.
Director Jean-Francois Richet makes the most of the dusty desert locales, cranking up the saturation and cooking the sun-baked setting and all the players within. He's the man behind both the competent Assault on Precinct 13 remake and also the recent Vincent Cassel crime two-parter, Mesrine, which didn't quite have the impact it intended. Working with what must have been a nothing budget, and a surprisingly sporadic smattering of action beats, Richet tries to make threats but doesn't quite deliver on them in the way that a bigger, more polished movie might have, leaving setpieces feeling underdeveloped, and anti-climactic.
Nevertheless, Gibson still pulls the whole load himself, carrying the weight of a small-scale feature effortlessly; delivering weighty one-liners despite the fact that his sparring partner is largely devoid of any talent or any suitable repartee, and reminding us of what we have been missing on the Big Screen for quite some time. With Hackshaw Ridge around the corner, the theatrical release of anything with his input is still welcome, but hopefully Blood Father won't be his last lead action vehicle. Despite its best and honorable efforts to be a memorable indie gem, the only thing memorable about it is Gibson's grizzly gusto.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.