Blood Father is the movie equivalent of making a junk food addict go full-tilt weight watchers and handing them a baseball bat after a week. It’s blunt, prone to explosive violence and has virtually no fat on it. The inevitability of its tried and tested formula should be coma inducing, but there’s more meta-grit to this Friday-Night-Actioner that tips it toward arresting.
You won’t be able to watch Blood Father without being reminded of the former Mad Max’s fall from grace. Our first look at Mel Gibson's John Link is a grizzled portrait devoid of vanity. The extreme close up and stark light leave the pickled eyes and deep set wrinkles as road signs to a past more than alluded to. If that wasn’t enough, his monologue meshes actor and character with an oddly affecting lament on the destruction alcoholism leaves in its wake. However, Jean-François Richet, who directed the markedly successful remake of Assault on Precinct 13, is careful to suggest the parallels rather than court the controversy. Gibson (and his beard) superbly convince as the former outlaw barely clinging to his sobriety as he flies straight.
Before all this though, our story starts with Jessica Jones’ Erin Moriarty who does what she can as the indentured girlfriend of Diego Luna’s interchangeable Latino gangster. However, once free of the benign setup Moriarty and Gibson build a persuasive bond. They do well to have the Father/Daughter reconciliation earned rather have it seem like a narrative mechanic when the time calls, especially when you consider the trimmed down running time. The awkward half-truths give way to bustling banter, which Gibson delivers like a yard-bird shiv.
Overall it’s an effective actioner. There’s guns that never run out of ammo, motorbike shoot-outs and even tipped over motorhomes. It’s the kind of staple that made the likes of Cobra or Raw Deal audience favourites back in the 80‘s. What raises the bar on this particular one is seeing Mel's remix of the emotional pendulum Mad Max or Lethal Weapon’s Riggs slipped into without warning. Watching him go from smart-as-a-whip exchanges to gun-pointing-wrath is oddly thrilling. One scene in particular sees John Link turn the tables on Michael Parks’ old chapter boss. It’s a hair trigger change of extremes. Few actors are able to explode from the blocks of knowing defeat to white-eyed rage.
You’ll hear the type of showbiz labels as “resurrection movie” or “return to form”. Watching John Link is almost like watching the wilderness years of Martin Riggs. You’ll be reminded that he was never really lost, we just, kind of, forgot about him.
3* - The Crashin of the Christ