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Awesome: 12.5%
Worth A Look: 12.5%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 2 user ratings

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Blood Father
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"Rehabilitate your image, Gibson, so you can do better than this."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2016 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: It is very easy to read too much into how Mel Gibson's character in "Blood Father" is introduced by stating that he is an alcoholic at an AA meeting, talking about what a mess he made of his life and how he's trying to avoid habits, but even if that is meant as a joke, it's one made with some purpose. Gibson's off-screen failings are many and well-known, and maybe a grudge should be held against him, but even if that's the case, it's still something of a waste to see his talent and screen presence as an actor just being used to make video-on-demand filler like this into something a bit more watchable.

Gibson plays John Link, who raised enough hell when he was in a biker gang to spend a good stretch in prison, during which time he dried out and made a few better friends, such as Kirby (William H. Macy), his trailer-park neighbor and sponsor. Now he operates a tattoo parlor out of his living room and makes no progress looking for the daughter who ran away from his long-remarried ex while he was in jail. We've seen Lydia (Erin Moriarty), though, and she's fallen in with a bad crowd, with boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna) wanting her to do some bad things to prove her loyalty. It is a disaster that she hopes she can make right by having Dad help her pay the cartel back, but Jonah's lieutenants are more set on a course of action that inevitably leads to John breaking pretty much every condition of his parole.

That sort of background has the makings of a grimy little thriller, and director Jean-François Richet doesn't exactly disappoint on that front; we're given a disheveled, tatted-up cast of characters where even the ones who could maybe pass as respectable have a layer of slime on them, and the "legit business" ruin by the leader of John's old gang (Michael Parks) involves selling Nazi memorabilia online. The run-down desert setting gives the producers of these grindhouse-movie descendants a cheap but impressive backdrop against which they can blow up old cars or riddle them with bullets, although all too often the filmmakers are quite aware of how the audience knows what to expect, thus relying on memorably bloody or sadistic violence to make an impression.

Neither Richet nor writers Andrea Berloff and Peter Craig (adapting a novel by the latter) is immune to that temptation; they open their film with cruelty and don't miss a chance to point out that the cartel killers are nasty people. They have just enough budget to escalate scale instead of viciousness, though, and though Richet has not yet done a lot in Hollywood, his two-part Mesrine established some bona fides in surrounding well-crafted action with a cool, stylish atmosphere. He and cinematographer Robert Gantz Like to frame things just a little bit tighter than the norm, and the flat browns feel like Band-aids just gross enough that one wants to rip them off. There's a classic 1980s style to the action, unrepentant in its violence and just aware enough of how the chases and shootouts are leaving realism and actual consequence behind.

The archness works because, though the filmmakers don't exactly use it sparingly, there's a foundation to it - John has seen enough posturing lead to death, incarceration, and other bad results that he's simply not impressed by that macho crap any more. It's the sort of wiseass part that Gibson has always excelled at, and it's not only great fun to see him toss one-liners and quips off as he camouflages fury as entertaining annoyance, but show John as being concerned but relatively unimpressed by Lydia's issues. Erin Moriarty is a fine foil as Lydia, the apple not falling far from the tree in terms of being sarcastic and self-destructive but secretly wanting to do right. They probably do their best individual work when looking pained or panicked on their own, but they give the film a little more snap when working off each other.

Gibson is good enough in this movie to make one wish he wasn't so radioactive that he can't be cast in better. But, if folks have a thirst for new action on a regular basis, it's not a bad thing to have the occasional injection of talent there. Sometimes you just feel like a nasty little chase, and this one does it better than many.

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originally posted: 08/26/16 12:40:42
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2016 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/29/19 Charles Tatum Gibson lifts the film 4 stars
1/14/17 mr.mike Tarantino-like action, terse dialogue, Gibson and Parks. Great. 5 stars
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  12-Aug-2016 (R)
  DVD: 11-Oct-2016

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  01-Sep-2016 (MA)
  DVD: 11-Oct-2016

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