Blood Father: Film Review
Cast: Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna
Director: Jean-Francois Richet
Sparsity and brevity prove to be useful bedfellows in French director Francois Richet's stripped back action movie, Blood Father.
But they're nothing without wearied Mel Gibson's trailer park living, hard tattooing, former Nazi enforcer Link who delivers a ferocious turn in this pared back straight to video piece that lacks the narrative to compellingly drive it through.
With unleashed fury that's redolent of a 70s actioner, the Mad Max we all know and loved before that meltdown comes simmering to the fore again, and quite frankly, it's a welcome return to form.
And it's greatly needed too, because Gibson's spikiness and untamed rage is about the only thing to pull Blood Father kicking and dragging out of the hoary old cliches that fail to ignite within.
Loosely, when estranged daughter Lydia (Moriarty, who goes from unsure gangster moll to trembling terrified child within seconds) contacts ex-con and father Link for money, the duo are pulled into a fight for survival with drug cartels and killers on their tail.
Blood Father's taut action scenes punctuate a script that's lacking on all fronts in anything other than building up to the pot boiling and consequent bubbling over of Link.
It doesn't help that dialogue at the start feels unnatural and the so called rift between daddy and daughter heads more towards the forced and unrealistic. Moriarty's turn eventually succumbs to the inevitable lost father schtick that Link gives into, but even when the action starts, there's a feeling of relief that the end is near.
Narratively, as a small indie with some meta elements (you can't help but read into Link's dialogue and its allusions to Gibson's Hollywood redemption), it just about succeeds. But without Gibson's return to form, nuanced turn and some tautly executed fight sequences, Blood Father is nothing but hoary old cliches piled atop each other and which fail to ignite.
It doesn't help that the film desire to throw in a tattooed Terminator Sicario soldier whose skill set is uneven when the story needs it but lethal when it doesn't; equally, the great character set up of William H Macy as Link's sponsor is squandered later on. But not every supporting player is up to the mark, and as the film progresses, it's clearly Mel's joint above all.
But then, Francois-Richet manages to throw in some stronger character moments in the 85 minute run time and leave you with the feeling that the film would have been richer for more of them rather than resort to overt symbolism (such as a Lost Soul tattoo on Link's arm).
Ultimately Blood Father wins as Gibson demonstrates once again his old fire - it's a searing turn and return to angry old Mel that proved so caustic a cinematic tonic so long ago and is so welcome once again.