John Link (Mel Gibson) is an ex-con making his way as a tattooist working from a worn-out old trailer in a small town in the California Desert. His neighbours are mostly loner men living out their existence far from the pressures and expectations of city life. John’s closest friend is Kirby, (William H. Macy) his AA sponsor and a man well-accustomed to dealing with Link’s moody personality. One day, Link gets a call from out of the blue. It’s Lydia (Erin Moriarty) his estranged 17-year-old daughter, who’s been missing for some months. It turns out her boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna), is a drug dealer and now her life is danger from a Mexican drug cartel. Link swings into action and locates Lydia. Even though they barely know each other, he is determined to keep her alive and to get to know his daughter better.
Although revenge dramas about fathers protecting daughters are hardly a new thing (e.g. The Searchers, the Death Wish series,) BLOOD FATHER is clearly having a crack at capturing the vibe of Liam Neeson’s Taken films. Instead of spy Bryan Mills and his special skills, here we have alcoholic jailbird, Link, a man ready to make amends after a lifetime of screwing over others. Link is burnt out, but hanging in there. He is down, but not out.
Having Mel Gibson as Link is that clever casting where the personal life of the actor is so well-known that it informs the audience’s understanding of the character; like Robert Downey Junior cast as Tony Stark. Although Gibbo likes to duck and weave on the topic of his reputation, he has been something of a Hollywood pariah for almost ten years. His starring role in BLOOD FATHER and his new directorial effort, HACKSAW RIDGE, indicate Mr Gibson is persona grata again.
As is often the case with star actors, most of Gibson’s better work has been done in smaller pictures. He is most interesting when he plays a loser. A Gibson character that has too much power or privilege doesn’t offer much, but whenever he plays someone whose back is against the wall, he is at his best. Link is under pressure from the moment he receives Lydia’s call. He is pissed-off, wired and alert to the possibilities of having so much trouble heading his way.
Director Jean-François Richet’s action sequences are not ground-breaking, rather they are simple and brutal. This is a meat-and-potatoes action film of no great distinction. It is Gibson’s performance of the tough yet tender Link, that lifts this flick another notch. Other notable performances include Erin Moriarty as Lydia. She has a nice onscreen chemistry with Gibson. Diego Luna is memorable as her crazy, drug-dealer boyfriend.
BLOOD FATHER opens in Australia today. 88 minutes.