There is a great scene in Blood Father which has our hero, Link (Mel Gibson), a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, speaking at his support group. I wish I could type it in here, but it is with a few choice words. It is better to see it first hand. It is a powerful scene in which Gibson seems to be talking to the audience not as his character, Link, but as himself. His past in real life has seemed to be stuck to him like Velcro. Other stars who do horrendous things are given a pass and applauded. Gibson is assailed and still spat upon. He has done it to himself and I think he would be the first one to say so. I have long forgiven him and his past. But his character Link seems to have a lot of Gibson in it. More so than usual. He is an convicted criminal who now lives in the middle of the desert in a run down trailer which doubles as his tattoo parlor. He is by himself. His wife left him years ago and his daughter, Lydia (Erin Moriarty) has not seen him in fourteen years. “I only see my daughter on a milk carton,” Link laments. That is until Lydia runs afoul of drug dealers and returns to Link for help.
This is a road movie and a short one. At a run time of 89 minutes it covers a lot of ground before the credits roll; literally. There is a lot to like about Blood Father. It is a gritty, dusty and violent film. Gibson really digs deep into the ghosts of this role and it shows in a great sense. Buff, bearded and grouchy, Link has very few friends with the exception of his sponsor, Kirby (William H. Macy) and a few members of his support group. Link seems to be on a path of dying alone, but when Lydia arrives, he springs into action as only a protective father would. Even one who is on parole. Gibson is tough but still likable as Link. The real joy in Blood Father is Erin Moriarty as Lydia. At twenty four, Ms. Moriarty shows that she has incredible range playing first a victim but then a savior. She steals just about every scene she is in and when you are sharing the screen with Mel Gibson, that is mighty hard to do. Her performance is terrific. She is sweet, sad, tough, smart and sensitive. This is one actress to keep an eye on.
At the crux of this film is the relationship between Link and Lydia and on that level, Blood Father works. It has the usual fights and arguments that seem be a staple for estranged family films. That is nothing new to film and it is pretty cut and dry in Blood Father. But what makes it work are the characters which are explored and I felt connection to. It did not matter to me that they were in a recycled plot. I cared what happened to them. The action is pretty neat and has a western feel to it, as well. Macy is fine as Kirby, but has limited screen time as does the main bad guy, Jonah (Diego Luna). Raoul Max Trujillo is also featured as The Cleaner, a hired assassin brought up from south of the border. Trujillo starred in Gibson’s epic classic 2006 film Apocalypto. It is good to see them working together again. Veteran actor Michael Parks has an interesting role as Preacher. Link and Preacher have an uneasy relationship that is given some depth to explain the psyche behind Link. Parks has limited screen time but makes the most of an odd character.
Director Jean Francois Richet (who directed the excellent 2005 remake of Assault On Precinct 13) and screenwriters Peter Craig (based off of his book) and Andrea Berloff do a nice job of combining all of the elements of this film; family, blood ties, redemption and survival, effectively. Robert Gantz makes good use of the desert locales with some impressive cinematography and Steven Faulconer has provides a great action score. Blood Father may not be anything original but it has enough going for it that I was interested in what I was watching. This is a hard film to find, like some others. But in this case, I think it is because of Gibson’s past drama which is sad. You would think he would have been forgiven of his past sins, by now.This is a decent film featuring some fine performances and solid action. Sometimes, that is all that is needed.
Blood Father – ***1/2 out of 5
Blood Father – Rated R for gore, harsh language, graphic violence and adult situations
Blood Father – Run Time is 89 minutes
Blood Father is playing in select cities. Check your local listings for times and locations. You can also catch in on VUDU and Amazon On Demand.