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Review: Blood Father – “Mel Gibson has resurrected himself on screen”


Mel Gibson has become an easy target and a gold mine for the salacious-seeking press. Almost anything he says, however uncontroversial – like describing Batman v Superman as “a piece of shit” – is treated as the old anti-Semitic codger causing a hullabaloo again. But say what you want about his personal life and his career-destroying gaffs (almost every review does), no one can take away this codger’s charisma and talent as a movie star and his aptitude as a filmmaker. Gibson belongs to a sect of ultraconservative Hollywood auteurs, alongside Clint Eastwood, that specialise in proficiently-made brooding drama’s. No flash, no dance, just a camera and a story. He also has a habitual and seemingly sincere belief in the possibility of redemption through violence; is there a director that has such an extreme characteristic obsession with primordial ultra-violence? Consider the bloodthirsty battle scenes in Braveheart, the torture-porn in the fascistic bore The Passion of the Christ, or the shock-and-awe ferocity of Apocalypto. Word on the street is that his latest directorial effort, Hacksaw Ridge, is no different either. Blend this with his traditionalist Sedevacantist Catholicism and it makes for a polarising and beguiling auteur figure. Gibson isn’t the director in his most-recent “comeback” film, Blood Father, but he might as well have been. While not to discredit the good work of Jean-François Richet, this is Gibson’s film through and through – another well-made story of violent redemption with religious undertones.

Gibson plays John Link, an ex-convict on parole with a sinful past. He’s basically Mel Gibson. But his character is trying to live the quiet life as a tattooist in his desert trailer, causing nobody no harm and living off the grid. Only that his wayward runaway daughter returns to him with trouble and Link is forced to assume the paternal protector role and save his daughter and maybe even his soul. But before you think it, this isn’t another one of your usual stories about an ex-whatever daddy using his particular set of retired skills to deliver justice in the capital sort of way. Gibson doesn’t represent the alpha-authority figure who has seemingly omnipotent power to kick-ass. In fact, his total lack of control over his rebellious, eccentric daughter and their various sticky situations is a source of much amusement throughout the film. He’s a man with a violent past, but he’s also very reluctant to engage in new violence. This is all, of course, because of Gibson’s unique talent as an actor; despite the solemn tone of the marketing material, this is in fact a very energetic and fun fugitive thriller, imbued with buddy-genre elements between father and daughter as they bicker and argue while escaping the Mexican cartel. The same energy and nervous zaniness that Gibson harnessed to create Detective Martin Riggs comes back on numerous occasions. He even lives in a trailer.

Yet this is entirely different. Mel Gibson is entirely different. It isn’t Lethal Weapon, nor even Mad Max, despite the motorbikes, deserts and shotguns. It’s Blood Father and it may rank up there with those films as the sort of perfect Friday night entertainment that Gibson is best at delivering. We saw glimpses of it in How I Spent My Summer Vacation and Edge of Darkness but in this seemingly generic pulpy actioner, director Jean-François Richet helps Mel perfect the formulae. Sure its derivative like any genre film, but Gibson elevates the material; he has lived a life since his cops and robber’s days and he wears that time in his performance. With a long grey beard, white receding hair and fractured weary skin, he is no longer 1985’s Sexiest Man Alive, but as an actor he has gained something more – a strangely animalistic beauty, honesty in performance and a muscular, Biblical demeanor. It’s a great physical performance, and it’s an honest one, which is surely what acting is all about? Naturally this brings a lot to an otherwise archetypal character and his chemistry with his daughter (played brilliantly by Erin Moriarty].

Whether you like him or not, Gibson is film talent Blood Father forces us to admire. Going back to his sun-soaked bloody exploitation roots, Mel Gibson has resurrected himself on screen. When his films are this good, maybe, just maybe, he deserves to be making them more often.



Blood Father opens in the UK on 7th October 2016.

BLOOD FATHER final poster

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