By Keith Hill
Rated MA 15+. Starring Mel Gibson, William H Macy, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna. Directed by Jean-Francois Richet.
A washed up former alcoholic with a background of racism who lost it all. Blood Father is a story of two men seeking redemption – Mel Gibson, and the character he plays.
Directed by Frenchman, Jean-Francois Richet, Blood Father centres around ex-con and recovering alcoholic John Link (Gibson), who lives in a run down trailer park outside L.A. He’s bitter about past wrongs that haven’t been righted, but mostly spends his days running a tattoo parlour from his trailer and arguing with his friend and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Kirby Curtis (Macy). The tattoo on his shoulder sums him up perfectly – he’s a ‘Lost Soul’.
Link receives a call out of the blue from his daughter Lydia (Moriarty), who has been missing for several years. Lydia has inherited her daddy’s demons, and now has shot a killed her boyfriend Jonah (Luna). Jonah, as it turns out, has an uncle right at the top of one of Mexico’s biggest drug cartels, and now has a price on her head and a sicario (hitman) on her tail. To keep her alive, Link has to enter back into the life he left behind and reconnect with some dark figures from his past.
Blood Father represents Mel Gibson’s second attempt at reigniting his career after numerous offscreen incidents. Unlike 2011’s The Beaver, this film is more true to type for Gibson – Link could easily be Lethal Weapon’s Martin Riggs, had he ended up on the other side of the law. This is the kind of role that Mel Gibson excels at.
At only 88 minutes, the film crams a lot of action in, and fast. There’s numerous car chases and shoot-outs. The film is B-grade, and there’s not a lot of surprises in store plot-wise. The dialogue is classic Gibson, with witty and rapid one liners. Link is cynical, and completely unfazed at the thought of having an entire Mexican drug cartel after him and his daughter. And this time Gibson has found a great counterpart in Erin Moriarty – there’s some great daddy-daughter dialogue that has you laughing out loud, even in the midst of the pair getting shot at by Mexican gangsters with automatic weapons.
Despite his numerous flaws, Link is a guy who wants to turn his life around. He wants to stay clean and sober, he wants to stay out of jail. But most of all he wants to be a good father. He knows he’s failed at pretty much everything that matters to him in life, and as he acknowledges early in the film ‘I can’t fix everything I broke.’ But the reappearance of his daughter, and in such dire need, gives Link an opportunity to make amends. There is nothing he won’t do to keep his daughter safe, and make sure she doesn’t continue down the track that’s leading her down the same dark path as him.
Despite the fact that he’s the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley at night, Link is entirely sympathetic at this point. There’s something in his desire to protect his daughter at all costs that we know is inherent and fundamental to being a father.
And that’s because that impulse has its source in the archetypal Father – God. Even though he doesn’t have the failings of Link, God does have children who have gone off the rails, found themselves under the sentence of death, and need his help. And like Link, there is nothing God the Father won’t do to save his children – even if it means taking the sentence of death on himself.
The Verdict: Full of gore and violence, with a washed up dead beat in need of redemption, this is the perfect comeback for Mel Gibson. While it’s a pretty straightforward B-grade action film, a great cast and some witty dialogue make it a pretty enjoyable ride. 4/5
Blood Father releases in Australian cinemas this Thursday, 1st September. It is already screening in the USA.