Mel Gibson’s well documented fall from grace has overshadowed the Australian actor’s prodigious talent for some years now.
And now the 60-year actor, writer and director is again on the comeback trail, as he returns to his favourite action genre for this English-language version of the violent French action thriller film directed by Jean-François Richet.
Blood Father is Mel’s first vehicle since the universally derided The Beaver (2011). We’ll just skip over that bit. Mel plays John Link, an ex-con who operates a makeshift tattoo parlour out of his trailer home (very Lethal Weapon), in the middle of the California desert. When he’s not chewing the fat with his customers, he spends his days staying on the straight and narrow with the help of his AA sponsor and best friend Kirby (William H. Macy).
Link’s bucolic existence is abruptly shattered by the arrival of his estranged 16-year-old daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty), and a bag of trouble. The drug and alcohol abusing student is on the run from a Mexican cartel after shooting her aspiring drug lord boyfriend, Jonah (Diego Luna). And when the cartel comes looking for payback, Link gives Liam Neeson a run for his money in the daughter protection business as he reveals he’s in possession of his own special set of skills to keep his daughter out of the way of a hitman while evading parole.
The movie delivers on its promise of plenty of action, with Mel looking very comfortable as he dispenses with some of the bad guys in efficient fashion. However some of the film’s best moments are in the scenes between Mel and talented newcomer Erin, as they tenderly portray a father and daughter who find their way back to one another while simultaneously fighting to stay alive.
The film has a redemptive element, with Link’s absent father attempting to make up for his parental neglect by zealously protecting his daughter by any means necessary. There are a few visual nods to Mel’s past successes, such as when he saddles up on a motorbike for another desert ride like his Mad Max character. But one can’t help but be reminded of his failures too, like when Link visits an old friend in the hope of shelter, and knocks down a dummy clothed in a Nazi uniform.
And when Link confesses to his daughter, “I’m sorry – I made mistakes and you suffered,” the Hollywood star appears to be making an admission that’s bigger than his character.
Blood Father is a slick movie that shows Mel Gibson hasn’t lost all the magic of his former stellar career.
While the bad guys, who include Diego Luna and American Crime’s Richard Cabral, are pretty one dimensional, Mel and Erin’s struggle to reconnect while fighting to stay alive elevates Blood Father from being a run-of-the-mill action flick.
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