Saturday, November 26, 2016

Jean-Francois Richet's "Blood Father" - Return to Form

John Link (Mel Gibson), a reforming ex-convict on strict parole watch, gets a desperate call from his estranged daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty) whom he hasn’t seen in years. Holed up in a trailer truck park in the California desert with few options, John makes a living as a tattoo artist. He has been sober for 2 years, and is trying to keep it together.  But Lydia’s situation is a game changer. The 17 year old girl is being pursued by a Mexican drug cartel after she accidentally shots boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna), who may have used Lydia to conceal contraband. John refuses to get pulled back into his past, but he must take action to protect Lydia by knocking on these doors. 

The story is one that may have been told several times in the past, and the theme is universal, much like Brad Pitt's also-showing "Allied", i.e. protecting the people your love at all cost. 

But Mel Gibson and the film's cavalcade of characters are an engrossing bunch, you're compelled to watch the events unravel. Besides, this is Gibson's comeback after a two-year hiatus (last seen in Patrick Hughes' "The Expendables 3").  

I keep thinking of Peter Craig's novel where, surely, Link's story is better told. John Link is a former Hell's Angel, an ex-con, trying to stay clean and sober while running a tattoo parlor from the kitchen of his trailer home. Link was in fact in prison for 9 years. While Lydia hails from a relatively wealthy upbringing, her relationship with her mother leaves much to be desired. The teenager has had three stepfathers.

The movie is told in straight-forward fashion. It takes us to the dusty, craggy and scabrous communes of this desert community. Despite adequate screen time, Moriarty's character is poorly threshed out, thus she comes off a bit on the tepid side, barely convincing as a good-girl-gone-bad. But the motley crew of characters may suffice - there's an all too-eager AA sponsor (Macy), a white supremacist (Parks), a nasty cellmate, a cartel soldier called sicario (with unnerving tattoo inked all over his face) and an opportunist boyfriend (Luna) - each one navigating Link's netherworld with ulterior motives. 

The script doesn't hold much traction, but this is vintage Mel Gibson, the quintessential action hero we all root for. In "Blood Father", you can't miss his raw magnetism and the unmistakable hint of humor in his eyes. If this isn't obvious enough, this cinematic vehicle is a return to form.  

Erin Moriarty

Mel Gibson when the world was his oyster.

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