Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Movie Review: Blood Father

Blood Father
Directed by: Jean-François Richet.
Written by: Peter Craig and Andrea Berloff based on the novel by Peter Craig.
Starring: Mel Gibson (Link), Erin Moriarty (Lydia), Diego Luna (Jonah), Michael Parks (Preacher), William H. Macy (Kirby), Miguel Sandoval (Arturo Rios), Dale Dickey (Cherise), Richard Cabral (Joker), Daniel Moncada (Choop), Ryan Dorsey (Shamrock), Raoul Max Trujillo (The Cleaner).
No matter what else you can say about Mel Gibson – and lord knows, you can say a lot – the man was once one of the biggest movie stars in the world for a reason. He has that movie star ability that allows him to coast through movies on the basis of his charm alone, if he wants to, and while his range may never have been great – that’s true of many movies stars – they are not character actors after all. Had Gibson’s personal demons not become very public, than he likely would still be churning out action movies like Tom Cruie is able to do- and they’d still likely be very entertaining. Gibson’s career as a movie star is over though – so we’re likely left with starring roles like the one in Blood Father – a smaller action movie, that smartly builds Gibson’s demons into his character from the start, and then allows that character to get a measure of redemption by the end.
When we first see Gibson on Blood Father, he’s is heavily bearded, and tired looking – speaking at an AA meeting, where he basically confesses that is alcoholism and rage issues have left him a bitter, lonely man who has ostracized everyone who has ever loved him, and now he’s just trying to make it through day-to-day. He also mentions his missing daughter, Lydia (Erin Moriarty), who we’ve already met – when she buys a lot of ammo from Wal-Mart (and asks for cigarettes as well, but they won’t sell those to her without ID, because America). Her drug dealer boyfriend, Jonah (Diego Luna) and company then use those bullets when they storm a residential home looking for money and drugs the family inside have apparently stolen. Lydia ends up getting away from those drug dealers – but they’re after her, and with no one else to turn to, she reaches out to her dad – who rides to the rescue.
Blood Father is not a great movie – and it’s probably not one you want to think through very much, or else it may come across as kind of offensive (let’s just say that the depiction of all the Latino characters in the movie would basically get Donald Trump’s seal of approval). Yet, the reason to see the movie is Gibson himself – who throughout the course of Blood Father reminds you precisely why he was a movie star in the first place, and who works hard to try and put his sins in the past. Not only does the film have Gibson’s link admit to his alcoholism and rage issues – it also has him confront his one-time crime collegues – who happen to be a White Supremist group (although they are never identified as such, there’s more than enough evidence – including Nazi flags to make it pretty clear). The film has some decent work by Michael Parks as the leader of this hate group, and while I didn’t necessarily buy Moriary as a character who was either addicted to drugs or in love with Luna’s Jonah, she is a fine screen presence as well – and helps to give some of the closing scenes an emotional pulse. It’s also a relief that Moriaty isn’t playing the doe-eyed innocent that Maggie Grace was stuck playing for three fricking Taken movies – she’s tougher than she looks.
The movie is a fleet 88 minutes, and is directed with effeiciency by Jean-Francois Richet – who directed those underseen Mesrine movies with Vincent Cassell a few years ago, and the unnecessary (but not bad) Assault on Precinct 13 film a decade ago. He knows what he’s doing behind the camera in an action movie, and his blunt style works for the film (in particular, I love the last meeting between Gibson and Parks). The film is trashy fun for the most the part, and little else. But the presence of Gibson makes some of the film hit harder than it otherwise would. Gibson has largely been out of the public eye for a decade now. Until this weeks’ Hacksaw Ridge, he hasn’t directed a film since 2006, and he hasn’t shown up on screen much more often. But he’s back now, and seeking forgiveness I guess – and films like Blood Father I think show both that Gibson still has the ability onscreen – and at least an understanding of just how much his off screen action hurt him.

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