BLOOD FATHER Review

There is nothing particularly new or even original about Blood Father and yet there are still signs of life within what would appear to be a corpse of a movie. Every actor over the age of fifty that once counted on their name above the title to bring in box office returns has attempted an action/revenge picture that can be traced back to Liam Neeson's success with Taken. Of course, that film worked because Neeson was playing somewhat against type and in a caliber of film he often didn't appear in. Neeson himself has ridden that success through two terrible sequels, a number of entertaining Jaume Collet-Serra flicks, and other B-movie actioners that have given the esteemed actor a brand new phase in his career (though that phase does seem to be coming to a close). We had the inevitable Nicolas Cage attempt in Stolen, Kevin Costner tried his hand with 3 Days To Kill, Sean Penn had The Gunman, Pierce Brosnan even took up the action mantle again to get in on the game with The November Man, and Mel Gibson naturally tried his hand with 2010's Edge of Darkness. Remember that one? It wasn't bad, really, but it certainly didn't match Neeson's success (hardly making back its $80 million production budget in its late January release slot) and it certainly wasn't enough to overshadow the storm of controversy Gibson garnered himself that year or four years prior. In that film Gibson played a homicide detective investigating the death of his activist daughter, but in Blood Father Gibson's character, much like in real life, has ended up on the other side of the law. An ex-con who only comes to reunite with his estranged seventeen year old daughter after she kills her drug dealer boyfriend. Gibson strangely enough plays Mike Link who we find at a point of acceptance with his shortcomings. It obviously parallels where many imagine Gibson is at with his career and life in general-Link's opening scene leading him to comment that, "You can't be a prick your whole life and then say never mind." While Blood Father may utilize our idea of current Mel Gibson to emphasize both the desperation and hope in its protagonist's plight the film outside the presence of Gibson is very much a generic action thriller that sees a dad in need of redemption kicking ass, taking names, and risking it all for the sake of his misguided daughter.

We begin not by meeting the titular father, but instead the estranged seventeen year old daughter, Lydia (Erin Moriarty), who has run away from the cushy, privileged life supplied by her mother and wealthy step-father to join the ranks of her drug dealer boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna) that has put her in the middle of a drug war. Jonah is the cousin of a major drug lord in Mexico as proven by the presence of a legitimate sicario later in the film. Jonah has housed Lydia in one of his stashing locations that are made to look inconspicuous by allowing innocent-seeming white people to occupy them. It is when some of the drugs go missing from Lydia's house that Jonah suspects foul play. Going to another of these safe houses where drugs have also gone missing Jonah tests Lydia's allegiance to him by forcing her to shoot the mother of the family that lives there. Instead, Lydia turns the gun on her boyfriend and flees. Jonah's henchmen are hot on her trail leaving Lydia with no choice other than to call her once alcoholic father who's now been out of jail for a year and sober for two. This all occurs within the first seven minutes of the movie and furthermore, is divulged in the films trailer, but this is all to say that this prologue of sorts is purely set-up for the introduction of Gibson's Link via one of his AA meetings. This introduction begins with an extreme close-up of Gibson's now grizzled face complete with a salt and pepper beard and a skin tone that tells us he's as much a part of the surrounding desert landscape as the cartel members chasing his daughter. He spouts lines such as, "I was never clean for very long except maybe in the womb, but knowing mama I was probably pickled there too," and, "Got a kid I can't find except for on a milk carton," to perfect effect letting us know exactly what we're in for and by setting this bar the remainder of what occurs in Blood Father doesn't so much surprise us, but more plays by its genre rules nicely enough to be wholly fulfilling.

Mike Link (Mel Gibson) goes to extreme lengths to protect his daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty) in Blood Father.
That is to say it's not hard to see the beats the film is going to hit or how all of this might come to a close, but as the "it's the journey and not the destination" saying goes Blood Father very much takes advantage of being able to take advantage of such genre tropes. Make no mistake, Blood Father isn't a great film, but it is an entertaining one that utilizes its strengths to great resolve. Director Jean-Fran├žois Richet (the 2005 re-make of Assault on Precinct 13) is insightful enough to know the reasoning both his film and Gibson's reputation benefit from having him in the role and thus whether or not the screenplay from Peter Craig (who wrote the novel this is based on as well as the scripts for The Town and Mockingjay Parts 1 and 2) and Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton) placed more emphasis on the Lydia character (doubtful considering the title) it is the focus on Link that makes the film more compelling than it has any right to be. Granted, the daughter character here plays a more active role than in most of these old man revenge thrillers and Moriarty does a more than commendable job matching Gibson's intensity with her concern, anxiety, and a surprising layer of gratitude, but make no mistake-this is Gibson's show. It should also be noted William H. Macy as Link's sponsor and a "trailer park Poet" as well as Michael Perks' contributions garner more smiles and smirks than they do necessarily add weight. Gibson plays Link as a man who has largely given up everything he knows and everything that once made him feel like himself. He clearly leaned on the drink and probably a few other narcotics which he has sworn off. He was once largely associated with his motorcycle, but now all of those things are little more than parole violations. They aren't characteristics-they're influential elements that dictate how others saw and still see Link. The entire point of the film is for Link to overcome these generalizations and low expectations that his name has carried for most of his life. It's easy to see how Gibson could relate to the part and in understanding the similar arcs and attributes Gibson turns in an affecting show of his talents that allows viewers to invest in this familiar set of circumstances making Blood Father solid B-movie fun with something of real-world gut punch one might not expect.