There’s an old writing adage often attributed to Raymond Chandler – when the plot is flagging, have a man come in with a gun. This seems to have been a dogma taken to heart by the writers of the latest Mel Gibson film Blood Father.
Link (Mel Gibson) is slowly getting his life back on track. A two time ex-con, he is staying sober and staying employed in his trailer park tattoo parlor. It may not be much, but it beats his former criminal behavior, or incarceration. That changes when his runaway daughter contacts him, with a number of gun wielding gangsters on her tail. To keep her safe Link is going to have to reconnect with his own violent past.
Mel is absolutely the best thing about Blood Father. It seems an odd thing to say considering the star’s tumultuous relationship with the media, but this film is certainly his vehicle and in many ways an attempt to bring him back in from the cold. As the grim, sober and bearded ex-con Link, he’s a man full of regrets. His gravely voice, no nonsense attitude and downcast demeanor speak volumes about his life as he seeks to atone the only way he knows how – through blood and violence. This is a simple redemption arc, as a father tries to protect his daughter and tries to teach her what he has learned through his mistakes. In part it also speaks to Gibson’s mistakes, and attempts to atone for them as well.
Hence Blood Father also plays like something of a Greatest Hits compilation for the actor. Elements of Mad Max, Lethal Weapon, and even Bird On A Wire are all apparent in this script. For the most part these nods make the movie shine, reminding us of why we liked Mel. When it tries to stand on its own Blood Father is on less stable ground. The action is competent, and but the dramatic elements are a little inert, hindered by odd tonal changes. Blood Father often lurches into heavy handed drama from more successful comedic action scenes, and flounder as a result.
It is also hard to see what the Lydia actually learns from Link, despite the films insistence that “Father knows best” (even if he is a two time unlucky ex-con and recovering alcoholic). For all the father daughter interplay, there’s little pay-off in the relationship. The messages feel twee, and any emotional climax is unearned. A relationship that isn’t helped by Erin Moriarty bringing almost no chemistry to the role.
Blood Father may not be Mel’s road to redemption. On the whole it is a mildly flawed flashback to nineties action films, but somewhat enjoyable for that.