‘…but you can’t be a prick all your life and then just say never mind.
I can’t fix everything I broke… all I can do is not drink, so I won’t do that today.’
Mel Gibson’s John Link says these words at the beginning of Blood Father, but the conviction with which he says them could be a reflection of his own thinking. It’s a movie, so we’ll never know for sure, but even acknowledging Gibson’s problems in such a roundabout way adds some poignancy to what is otherwise could have been a standard B-movie thriller.
Blood Father opens with Lydia (Erin Moriarty, Jessica Jones, True Detective) being told to kill a woman to prove her love and loyalty to Jonah (Diego Luna, The Book of Life), a highly placed figure in a drug cartel.
Instead, she shoots him and escapes to find her father, John Link (Gibson), whom we’ve just seen sharing in an AA meeting. He runs a tattoo business from his rustbucket of a mobile home in the middle of nowhere, after gaining parole as spending seven years in jail for an unknown offense.
He immediately recognizes that she’s an addict, too, and forces her to stop – but not until after some of Jonah’s men find them and he’s forced to break the conditions of his parole, grumbling all the way (‘That’s aggravated assault! That’s assault with a deadly weapon…!’).
The two are saved by a group of people from the trailer park, led by his AA sponsor, Kirby (William H. Macy, shameless) and go on the run in Link’s battered Chevy Nova.
The rest of Blood Father hits the expected beats: sympathetic motel clerk (Thomas Mann, Me and Earl and the Dying girl) who helps them evade the cops; the old guy that owes Link but betrays him (Michael Parks); the guy in prison who befriended Link (Miguel Sandoval); the tattooed cleaner who is sent to keep an eye on Jonah (Raul Trujillo), and so on.
Written by Peter Craig and Andrea Berlof (based on Craig’s novel) and directed by Jean-François Richet (Messerine Parts 1 & 2), Blood Father is a sturdy, if somewhat predictable action flick. It serves up the expected moving parts buts gives them a subtle flavoring of regret and longing.
Gibson is solid gold as John Link – given his early lines, it’s hard to think of the actor and the role as entirely separate beings, which works to the film’s advantage.
Moriarty is also very good as Lydia – she may have been a naïve princess when she was a kid but she sure isn’t now – though part of her clings to that naiveté and surfaces in certain awkward moments (while her less naïve self brings unexpected benefits).
It helps that Richet takes a fairly standard B-movie plot and frames it with just a hint of otherness – there’s a freshness to the film that arises from being shot by a kind of outsider with a new point of view.
That said, Blood Father is still very familiar stuff –well done though it is.
If you like noir, or revenge flicks, or any of the related sub-genres Blood Father flirts with, then you will probably enjoy it. It’s definitely worth the hour-and-a-half.
Final Grade: B
Photos courtesy of Lionsgate Premiere