Review: Blood Father
PLOT: An ex-con (Mel Gibson), who ekes out a living as a tattoo artist, is dragged into a war with a violent gang when his estranged daughter (Erin Moriarty) re-enters his life.
REVIEW: Damn right! That’s what I kept saying to myself over-and-over as I watched BLOOD FATHER on the big-screen at a Fantasia press screening in advance of its North American premiere as part of the festival. Mel Gibson’s first straight-up star vehicle since the (massively) underrated GET THE GRINGO, BLOOD FATHER is the type of hard-edged action thriller that could give the controversial star the comeback he deserves – were it getting a full-scale release. Instead, BLOOD FATHER is only getting a limited theatrical run (along with a VOD release) which is a shame, as with the breathtaking desert vistas this was clearly composed for the big-screen and is the most defiantly cinematic movie of the summer.
Director Jean-Francois Richet has really done something interesting here, in that he’s brought his European perspective to a distinctly American-style actioner, which plays out like a modern western with motorcycles replacing horses, and bikers/thugs instead of cowboys. Having aced the two-part MESRINE crime saga (starring Vincent Cassel), Richet is a sophisticated director and he elevates what could have been a small-scale actioner to near epic level. It helps that he’s working from a high-grade script by Peter Craig (the author of the novel this is based on) and STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON’s Andrea Berloff, that also gets in a few well-timed political pokes, such as a great opening sequence where Moriarty’s sixteen-year-old is allowed to by endless rounds of ammo but not cigarettes.
As for the man himself, Gibson is at his absolute best. Wearing a gritty beard, and sporting a kind of “don’t f**k with me” attitude that’s probably not far from the real Mel, this is his best performance in years. That said, for all his personal drama, Gibson has never let anyone down as far as movies go, although I’d say he has more to chew-on here than he did in EDGE OF DARKNESS or even GET THE GRINGO. If that later film was a call-back to PAYBACK, this is more along the lines of LETHAL WEAPON’s Riggs, with his Link having the same wild-look in his eyes and dangerous sense of unpredictability. One moment he can be tender with Moriarty (who’s very good as the troubled daughter) and in the next can be ripping ears off his opponents with his teeth, while simultaneously telling his daughter that despite all the murder, he’s having the time of his life – which we believe.
Richet’s also surrounded Gibson with a solid supporting cast. Diego Luna adds menace as the charming but sociopathic gangster after Moriarty, with him accompanied by a dead-eyed Sicario sent from the cartels to do his bidding. Meanwhile, William H. Macy steals scenes as Gibson’s AA sponsor/best friend/neighbor. The best of all them is Michael Parks, who aces a bit as Gibson’s former mentor, now turned neo-Nazi psychopath who’s holed-up in a desert bunker and proves to be a shadow of the figure Gibson remembers.
What’s really amazing about BLOOD FATHER is how Richet’s able to squeeze in tons of character beats and not skimp on the action at all, despite a scant eighty-eight minute running time. Highly economical and very disciplined with a hard-R rating, this is the antithesis of the usual Hollywood action fare and more like the kind of thing we’d have seen in the late eighties/nineties. It’s a small miracle as far as these things go, and it’s telling of the current marke place that the best action movie of the year is going straight to VOD. Don’t miss it – there may not anything out quite like it for awhile.