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Blood Father (A PopEntertainment.com Movie Review)

Blood Father

Blood Father

BLOOD FATHER (2016)

Starring Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna, William H. Macy, Michael Parks, Thomas Mann, Dale Dickey, Miguel Sandoval, Richard Cabral, Daniel Moncada, Ryan Dorsey, Raoul Trujillo, Brandi Cochran, Cameron Cipta, Lucien Dale, Joanne Camp and Tait Fletcher.

Screenplay by Peter Craig and Andrea Berloff.

Directed by Jean-François Richet.

Distributed by Lionsgate Premiere.  88 minutes.  Rated R.

Mel Gibson crashed and burned his acting career years ago with his off-screen antics.  We’re more than a few years into his attempted comeback, and people have still not forgotten the drunken antics, the incoherent police stop, the anti-Semitism, “sugar tits,” the cheating on his wife and the beating on his girlfriend.

The public in general find it hard to think less of Mel Gibson as a man than they already do.  It has also colored how we look at him as an actor.  People aren’t really buying him in the leading man roles, the light comedies, the good guy parts, or even the offbeat character dramas that he used to play with ease.

Therefore, Gibson and the filmmakers have come up with a rather clever idea for Blood Father.  Why not make his character, John Link, own up to all of Gibson’s worst character traits, and even add in a few for good measure?

Link is a loner and constantly angry.  He is horribly cynical.  He is a recovering alcoholic who has driven away friends and family.  He’s got a violent temper, and would rather fight than talk.  He’s been in trouble with the law (a nine-year stint in jail).  He used to be an anti-Semite: hanging with neo-Nazis and skinheads.  Now, he is just trying to keep his head low and get on with his life without too many people bugging him, hopefully getting a gig here or there to keep him going.  And no one really buys into the fact that he is reformed.

Sound familiar?

It’s a smart and intriguing character arc, specifically for the actor: one that makes this pretty generic action film more interesting than it could be.  How much of this character is autobiographical, a titillated audience wonders.  Probably less than we think (I’m sure at least the violent drug wars are way under Gibson’s pay grade), but as a way of paying public penance, this is an interesting acting challenge.

Of course, the fact that the character is so shut off and so deadpan, it wastes some of Gibson’s long-vaunted charisma, which is in short supply here.  However, this character is just specific to the macho tough guy artifice that he used to play with much more success in the likes of The Road Warrior and Braveheart.  It is a reminder of his skill, though I don’t think it will put his career back on the right track by any means.

John Link is a bit of hermit, a year out of jail after a nine-year stint (covering for a former neo-Nazi friend) and two years sober after a lifetime of substance abuse.  He lives in a beat up house trailer in the California dessert, and works as a tattoo artist from home.  He is estranged from his ex-wife, who has remarried.  His daughter Lydia ran away from home several years ago, and is now just a face on a “Lost Child” poster to him.  He has been trying to track her down – offering a reward for her return – but everyone else has given up on ever finding her again.

As the film starts, Lydia has found herself in dire straits.  She is dating a handsome-but-violent gangster boss (Diego Luna).  He takes her on a botched hit with his crew, and when he insists Lydia kill the woman of the house to prove her loyalty, she reflexively shoots him instead.  Then she takes off, with her boyfriend’s henchmen in hot pursuit.

With no place to go and no way to disappear, Lydia reaches out to her father, asking for $2,000.00 to help her go to Mexico.  Link goes to get her in Santa Monica and takes her home to figure things out.  It is immediately obvious to him that she, too, has a huge drug and alcohol problem.  So when the bad guys show up at his trailer, Link realizes he needs to take her on the road to save her.

They take a whirlwind trip of honky-tonks, stolen trucks, neo-Nazi hangouts, desert vistas, convenience stores and cheap motels.  (Best line in the movie: the desk clerk lasciviously asks the older Link where he found Lydia and he gruffly answers “In the fucking delivery room.”)  He keeps insisting he has her money, but nothing is shown to lead you to believe he had nearly that much laying around.

Some of the plotting is a little silly.  First of all, Lydia’s drug and alcohol addiction appear to be forgotten after a day or two.  She never goes through withdrawal, or DTs, or anything like that.  Suddenly she just seems to be better.  Also, Link and his daughter never do seem figure out how the bad guys keep finding them and that they really should toss her cell phone away.

Still, Blood Father is a consistently enjoyable action film.  Sure, it’s pulp trash, but it’s actually pretty good pulp trash.

It may not – probably won’t – resurrect Gibson’s career.  However, it’s a good reminder that the old dude still has some moves worth keeping an eye on.

Dave Strohler

Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 1, 2016.

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