Ex-con John Link (Mel Gibson) reunites with his estranged wayward 16-year old daughter Lydia (Erin Moriaty) to protect her from drug dealers who are trying to kill her.
Review by Louise Keller:
After public scrutiny over personal misdemeanours, it seems apt for Mel Gibson to take on the role of bad boy John Link, who has reached rock bottom but is now remorseful and trying to make amends. Gibson's deeply etched facial lines tell a story in themselves, along with the full grizzly beard behind which he hides. We cannot help but open our hearts to him at his opening AA meeting confessional, in which he declares 'You can't be a prick all your life; I can't fix everything I broke; all I can do is not drink', and watch him begin the road to redemption. True to Gibson's trademark of playing angry or deranged characters, Link fits the mould: rebellious, hot-headed, unpredictable and fearless. He is another incarnation of Mad Max.
Based on a novel by Peter Craig and directed by Jean-Franois Richet (Mesrine: Public Enemy No1), the story effectively begins when Link's missing teenage daughter Lydia (Erin Moriaty, assured) appears asking for his help, pleading she is like a fly about to be splattered on a windshield. In the opening sequence, we already have an idea of the desperate straights into which Lydia has got herself: her (much older) boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna, in nasty mode) sticks a gun in her hand and coerces her to do nasty things (enticing her with cocaine and a kiss).
While the film offers little that is new by way of plot with car and bike chases, it is the central relationship between Link and Lydia that resonates, as they get to know each in precarious situations with violent undesirables. Gibson is utterly convincing as the ex crim who is well connected with the wrong people but has paid his dues. His one friend is his sponsor Kirby (William H. Macy, in down-and-out mode), who lives nearby in the same dingy trailer park.
The story begins on Link's birthday and the screenplay is rich with juicy dialogue: 'She's every loser's lucky day,' Link says about Lydia; 'You miss the comforts of jail', Lydia tells Link; 'She is nothing but a chemistry experiment right now,' Kirby tells him; 'It's good to finally meet your friends,' Link tells Lydia, as undesirable cartel types arrive unannounced at his trailer, fully armed. I chuckled at the term 'neighbourhood watch', when the trailer park residents arrive quickly, guns a-ready when the drug cartel types arrive, guns blazing.
It's one hell of a ride filled with tension and explosive outcomes; every character is shady, colourful or both. There is a great sense of pace and the action-packed film establishes everything to which it aspires in a snappy 88 minute running time. But the film is all about Gibson who takes us with him on his journey from deadbeat to vigilante father with a mission, riding the metaphorical wave until the redemption he seeks is earned.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Mel Gibson does grizzly! Yep, full beard with greying chin tips and tussled hair, topped off with beefy arms tattooed to distraction, living in a ramshackle mobile home that's no longer mobile ... The characterisation is completed by his revelations of a life of crime, for which he has spent time. For all that, John Link is a decent guy, so to speak, having found some form of redemption and even friendship with his parole sponsor, Kirby Curtis (William H. Macy), living in a neighbouring shack.
Out of the blue, John's estranged 16 year old daughter, Lydia (Erin Moriaty), calls in from a roadside phone. She needs money urgently. It's a helluva way to say hello dad it's been a few years... But, being a decent sort of guy, John Link immediately jumps into his temperamental car and drives over to help and nurture her. Better late than never.
The plot takes off as fast as the newly reunited father and daughter in crowded Santa Monica, heading away from the pursuing gangsters with whom Ursula has got involved through her naughty, drug running boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna). No need to reveal more here, but it's clear enough that the plot is driven by the combination of deadly danger, fatherly care and evil pursuers.
Although there are a few holes in the plot and some credibility issues about their relationship, director Jean-Franois Richet (of the excellent Mesrine: Public Enemy No 1 fame) doesn't let any of that get in the way of a sinewy thriller in which moments of reflection allow us insights into the characters - notably John Link's.
The film works on its own terms and delivers what it promises with its casting of Gibson as the tough guy with a soft spot for his daughter and a clear sense of his own failings. But at least he has given up the booze.
Performances are excellent, and cinematography plays a big role in putting us in the place, while editing gets it all told in an efficient 88 minutes.
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BLOOD FATHER (MA15+)
CAST: Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Elisabeth Rhm, William H. Macy, Thomas Mann, Diego Luna, Dale Dickey
PRODUCER: Chris Briggs, Pascal Caucheteux, Peter Craig, Sebastian Lemercier
DIRECTOR: Jean-Franois Richet
SCRIPT: Peter Craig, Andrea Berloff (novel by Peter Craig)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Gantz
EDITOR: Steven Rosenblum
MUSIC: Sven Faulconer
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Robb Wilson King
RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 25, 2016