Blood Father, 2016.
Directed by Jean-Francois Richet
Starring Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna, Michael Parks and William H Macy.
An ex-con reunites with her estranged 17-year-old daughter after many years, but their reunion is short-lived as he must protect her from murderous drug barons.
Densely packed into its 90-minute runtime, Blood Father packs harder punches than many of its Hollywood counterparts. The opening sequence of the 17-year-old Lydia (Erin Moriarty) purchasing an arsenal worth of bullets at a quasi-Walmart, but unable to purchase cigarettes because of her age is scathing with the lunacy of modern laws, and one that can only be brazenly shot by a French filmmaker Jean-Francois Richet. Before the American readership assumes from this opening sequence that the film maintains this political commentary on American gun laws throughout, it must be noted that seldom does anything of this thematic ilk return. If anything Blood Father is an unashamed gun-blasting action flick that touts a career returning performance by Mel Gibson.
Gibson’s John is a pent-up, frustrated ex-con and ex-alcoholic making a modest living as a self-employed tattoo artist in his trailer park home. John is on parole, and to ensure he lured back into the lifestyle of booze, drugs, and violence, he has Kirby (William H. Macy) to be his sponsor. John’s straight life is, unfortunately (but predictably) compromised by the arrival of Lydia who pleads with John to front her some money. For you see those bullets that Lydia was picking up were for her boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna) who is also a notorious drug dealer, albeit lower down his family’s pecking order. Keeping spoilers to a minimum, events go awry, and John does everything he can to protect Lydia from Jonah’s sociopathic gang members.
Blood Father knows that its audience is waiting for the carnage to unleash (there’s plenty of it) so it smartly chooses to place the father-daughter catch-up early in the story. John and Lydia’s first encounter is naturally rushed (and awkward), given the urgency of her current situation, as they fuse a reunion, that oozes apprehension and pain, with a proactive plan. Screenwriters Peter Craig, who also wrote the novel of the same, and Andrea Berlof (Straight Outta Compton, World Trade Centre) keep the exposition very light to allow the characters speak. Merge this fusion with the on-screen chemistry between Gibson and Moriarty, and this is 90-minute B-movie action flick that raises its bar above many of its contemporaries.
The violence isn’t so much gruesome as it is visceral. John defends his daughter, his home and his tattoo parlour, with a gun-toting proficiency that is both emotive and reactionary; a hint towards his criminal past. It begins his quasi-redemptive arc inasmuch as it, and the audience, wants John to destroy those who are after his daughter.
On the periphery of John’s world are characters from his past, which populate the underworld, signifying as vast and interconnected. Lydia’s encounters with them offer more than what meets the eye. They offer her advice in more ways than one.
Blood Father shamelessly wears its B-movie aesthetics firmly on its sleeve, with a smart, not intellectual, screenplay sprinkled on top for good measure.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★