In the years since Mel Gibson offended the Jewish community and had a very public divorce from his wife, his movie career has been less than stellar. Offering up several attempts at a “comeback”, his movies continue to underperform at the box office, despite being reasonably good movies. However, with the release of this year’s Blood Father, it begs the question, is it time to forgive Mel for his past? So, is it any good?
Blood Father follows the story of a middle aged ex-con (Gibson) living a secluded life in the Californian desert. Living clean and attempting to right the wrongs of his life, he searches for his long lost daughter who ran away from home years earlier. Blood Father is intense and amusing from the very first scene. A simple plot with great acting all around makes this a very easy and entertaining watch. Starring alongside Gibson, William H. Macy and Michael Parkes prove that even small roles can be effective, and the reasonably unknown Erin Moriarty plays off Gibson like a charm.
After unwillingly taking part in a gang murder, Lydia (Moriarty) goes on the run and ends up in the hands of her “Blood Father” who she has been estranged from for many years. With Gibson attempting to stay within the confines of the law, he offers to help his daughter but soon realises that his attempts to stay on the right side of the law won’t save his daughter from the people she’s running from.
The majority of the film follows the two of them on the run. From Sicarios to police, gang members and bikies, a steady pace of action and suspense remains throughout the film. Directing this film is Jean-Francois Richet. Largely known for his French films, this will be his first “Hollywood” release since 2005’s Assault on Precinct 13. Seemingly aging like a fine wine, Richet has put together the best action film of its kind since Taken. Coming in at perfect hour and twenty eight minutes, there is no down time or wasted dialogue, and Gibson seems to give his most spirited performance in well over a decade. It seems that Gibson used some of his screen time to address his real life past. Lines like “You can’t be a prick all your life” feel as though they come more from Mel Gibson than his character. Although it can be likened to the action films of Liam Neeson that revived his career, the budget difference is increasingly obvious. This does provide the film with a little more grit and sincerity, which give it a tone not unlike Mad Max and other gun wielding badass characters from the eighties and early nineties.
In the end, I think the ability to like this movie will depend on whether you’re willing to forgive Mel Gibson on his previous sins, even if only for ninety minutes. This may not bring Mel Gibson back from the dead, but it proves that he’s still got it.