Action Week: ‘Blood Father’ Review

blood-fatherSo things have happened in the world this week. I’m not going to write about them on this movie blog but have instead decided to spend a week examining some of the years’ straight-to-VOD/DVD action movies, beginning with Blood Father.

I know it’s been non-passé to say anything positive about Mel Gibson for years now, but I am on the record as quite enjoying his 2012 thriller Get the Gringo (also known as How I spent My Summer Vacation), his last attempt at a comeback that didn’t really go anywhere. He seems to be going all in with his redemption hopes this year though, with his return to the director’s chair in war epic Hacksaw Ridge having just been released following a premier at Venice, and a lead role in Blood Father, an action thriller that sees him moving into Liam Neeson’s old-man-action territory.

Gibson is unafraid to draw from his own reputation too it seems, as his character in Blood Father, John Link, is himself a recovering alcoholic, estranged from his family who’s recently been released from prison. Now etching out a living as a tattoo artist in a trailer park, he receives a phone call from his daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty), who herself is on the run after a disastrous run-in with a local gang.

The immediate good news is that his daughter hasn’t been kidnapped so this isn’t another Taken clone, instead the father-daughter pair have to team up to escape the gang that’s after them. The interesting dynamic here is that, despite his past Gibson hasn’t committed any crime here, his daughter isn’t there to be his moral conscience or an object for rescuing, she’s the criminal and the one with the price on her head.

The film tends to concentrate on their relationship more than just staging action set-pieces, and it treats this quite maturely. While Gibson is undoubtedly playing the protective father figure, they both treat each other like adults, she isn’t just some underestimated little girl here, and Gibson and Moriarty convincingly sell a believable family connection between the pair.

That’s not to say the film is lacking in the action department though, as French director Jean-François Richet (Mesrine) delivers a few decent low-budget action beats throughout, all of which feel grounded more in throwback exploitation cinema than Hollywood excess (this film is in fact a French production).

The film boasts a decent supporting cast too including William H. Macy as a friend of Gibson’s, Michael Parks as his intimidating former mentor, and Diego Luna as Lydia’s criminal boyfriend, though the casting choice of someone as recognizable as Luna does betray a later plot twist.

While nothing to write home about, Blood Father is a straightforward, no-nonsense action thriller that zooms along quickly, wasting no time at all, aided throughout by Richet’s slick photography. It also serves as a definite reminder of Mel Gibson’s star quality, though grizzled and wold-weary now, his charisma still drives the film. Its premise of a man with troubled past trying to do some good now has obvious real-life parallels that help enhance the story and help us want to watch him succeed in evading the bad guys here. DTV action movies like this are in plentiful amounts nowadays, we’ll get to another one this week in fact, but Blood Father is definitely one at the higher end of the scale.

3/5

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