The only movies I’ve enjoyed as much as Blood Father in recent years have been The Revenant and John Wick. I had high expectations for this thriller, directed by Mesrine (seriously, check those movies out) director Jean-François Richet – these expectations were met. Blood Father is Mel Gibson’s best starring/acting role since 2002’s Signs and some may chalk it up as his best acting work since Braveheart. Not since that movie has Gibson really taken an alpha male role by the teeth and really shaken the life out of it, like he has done in this movie.
The film follows Lydia Link (Erin Moriarty), a 16 year old missing girl who has fallen in with the wrong crowd, a cartel-affiliated gang led by her sleazy boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna). But worse than falling in with these types is falling out with them, which Lydia does in a big way. On the run, she’s now alone and will be killed as soon as she is found. Elsewhere, at a shack resembling Martin Rigg’s old abode, ex-biker and murderer John Link (Mel Gibson) is earning pennies as a tattoo artist. He’s jacked, rugged and looks like he’d tear those clean-cut Sons of Anarchy posers apart with his bare hands. The phone rings, it’s his daughter asking for help. Link directs her to him, he has found his half grown, missing child and is going to violently protect her. Even if he has to call in some favours.
This is a hard bitten character that Mel Gibson is playing, the glint in the eye that we may have seen from his character in Payback, for example, has faded. Weary of life, trying to stay sober and wise to the intentions of every scumbag in the world. All intentional of course, not a sour depressing performance that someone like Bruce Willis might cough up. John Link is a real biker and Gibson brings nuance to his quiet scenes, yet is totally and utterly monstrous when he goes to war. Bouncing off his performance, Erin Moriarty is also having fun and handles the trickery of a teenager being weaned off drugs and the various degrees of acting needed very well. Her’s is not a pesky or screaming character, rather a chip off the old block. Often, she and Gibson are the only people on the screen, but fun to watch.
In this movie, you really can’t tell where it is headed narratively. That’s down to The Town writer Peter Craig’s ability to keep us guessing, along with his knack for keeping parent-child dialogue and relations grounded and realistic. I mean, one thing that highlights this is the lack of the ‘you sucked as a dad’ teen angst trope. Mercifully, that’s absent from the get-go (until it’s handled with class, in a slight manner, at the end), the film is too clever for that. As far as action is concerned, there isn’t much there but when it does become kinetic, it’s filmed as smooth as butter yet violently and brutally. You can see what happens, the editing is fine, too. One favourite scene of mine was when Gibson and Moriarty are being pursued by two bikers. Fans of the Mad Max series will catch the nods to Mad Max 2… at speed, Mel turns to his right and blasts someone to hell on the highway with a 12 gauge. It should have theatres roaring.
I shouldn’t forget William H. Macy either, who is in this brilliant movie. His role is small, but cool. He’s playing a foul-mouthed Ned Flanders of sorts, it just adds to Richet and Craig’s at times superbly crafted black comedic undertones.
Bottom line, you’re not going to get any better than this in 2016. Take some time out this weekend and catch this old school classic at the cinema. Fuckin’ loved it, you will too.