Blood Father

This hard-boiled boilerplate effort is blunt, brutal, hardly original and yet mostly efficient as well.
Blood Father

 Mel Gibson in Blood Father photograph via Icon Film Distribution Australia.


“I can’t fix everything I broke,” admits John Link (Mel Gibson, The Expendables 3) to the alcohol-focused support group he’s required to attend – and whenever another opportune moment arises, he’s reminding others that he's trying to work through his past transgressions as well. There’s no mistaking that the ex-con turned trailer park tattoo artist is attempting to seek redemption, even before his missing 17-year-old daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty, Captain Fantastic) re-emerges looking for help escaping the murderous drug dealers on her trail. There’s no doubting that many of partly confessional, partly conciliatory words Link utters come loaded not just with the character’s background, but with the recent misdeeds of the tarnished actor that plays him.

Blood Father leans into both; though director Jean-François Richet’s (One Wild Moment) film is based on Peter Craig’s (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) novel of the same name, and adapted by the author with co-scribe Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton), it revels in the obvious, unfortunate baggage of its star. The feature’s casting gives it the same wearied texture than lines Gibson’s face, infuses its road chases with knowing urgency, and makes the sun-drenched Californian desert setting seem like a dystopian wasteland. Otherwise, the movie is simply a pulpy, blood-soaked thriller.

Violent and unashamedly trashy, Blood Father certainly is – and blunt, brutal, hardly original yet mostly efficient as well. When Lydia comes calling after accidentally dispatching with her sleazy, connected boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna, The Book of Life), the film sends the protective papa and his wayward but generally well-meaning daughter duo on the run as they endeavour to shoot or flee their way out of trouble.

Indeed, Craig and Berloff have fashioned a script that’s as slight, straight-forward and swimming in pointed dialogue as it sounds, so much so that it requires a compelling lead performance to keep it propped up. Link is a role that could’ve been played by many – in recent years, Liam Neeson; in other decades, whoever the grizzled action hero of the day happened to be – but here, it benefits from more than just Gibson’s apparent self-awareness. He’s amusingly careening when he needs to be, and appropriately no-nonsense moments later. It helps that his co-stars only prove notable for the wrong reasons: Moriarty’s skimpy wardrobe conveys as much about her character as her portrayal, while Luna’s bad guy, William H. Macy’s (Room) sponsor and Michael Parks’ (Tusk) old acquaintance are all one-note parts.

Richet’s direction could similarly be described as single-minded, with B-movie status clearly his intention for the feature. Stylistically, Blood Father is an exercise in checking the action-thriller boxes, remaining suitably slick yet still rough enough around the edges – aka a competent yet hardly memorably made offering. With lengthy two-part gangster epic Mesrine among the highlights on his resume, where the French filmmaker best demonstrates his talents is in the film’s fast pace and leanness. There mightn’t be much that’s out of the ordinary in this hard-boiled boilerplate effort; however there’s also little that's unnecessary either.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Blood Father

Director: Jean-François Richet
France, 2016, 88 mins
Release date: August 25
Distributor: Icon
Rated: MA​

Sarah Ward

Thursday 1 September, 2016

About the author

Sarah Ward is a freelance film critic, arts and culture writer, and film festival organiser. She is the Australia-based critic for Screen International, a film reviewer and writer for ArtsHub, the weekend editor and a senior writer for Concrete Playground, a writer for the Goethe-Institut Australien’s Kino in Oz, and a contributor to SBS, SBS Movies and Flicks Australia. Her work has been published by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Junkee, FilmInk, Birth.Movies.Death, Lumina, Senses of Cinema, Broadsheet, Televised Revolution, Metro Magazine, Screen Education and the World Film Locations book series. She is also the editor of Trespass Magazine, a film and TV critic for ABC radio Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, and has worked with the Brisbane International Film Festival, Queensland Film Festival, Sydney Underground Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival. Follow her on Twitter: @swardplay