Blood Father – Review (*** 1/2)

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Mel Gibson may not be filling up multiplexes with his starring work any time soon, but with this sinewy – if fairly familiar – thriller, he reaffirms his penchant for crafting visceral, memorably troubled characters.

After a young woman by the name of Lydia (Erin Moriarty) finds herself on the wrong side of her drug kingpin boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna), she heads on the run with her estranged father John (Gibson), an ex-con, ex-alcoholic looking to finally do right by his flesh and blood at all costs.

Though it’s made of familiar parts with undeniable similarities to classic revenge thrillers such as Death Wish and Taken, there’s an intense, rough-hewn charm to this effort from director Jean-François Richet (Mesrine) that easily elevates it above those more mainstream works.

Most of the credit goes to Gibson, whose hunger to get back behind a sturdy project rather than coasting on trashy irony (as with his recent roles in Machete Kills and The Expendables 3) is evident. Here Gibson rattles through the pulpy dialogue – much of it pulled from Peter Craig’s source novel – with a steely reserve that quickly gives way to white-hot rage, and the results are quite possibly the most impressive work Gibson has put out in front of the camera in several decades.

He’s not the only reason the movie succeeds, though; Moriarty is a fine scene partner and works far beyond the evident aesthetic appeal, while William H. Macy and Michael Parks also provide amusing and terrifying support respectively as John’s AA sponsor and frazzled old pal.

If not as action-packed as some may expect from the marketing, Blood Father is all the better for its uncommonly character-driven approach to the genre; there’s plenty of blood, be sure, but much more in the way of loaded conversations, terrifying shout-downs and mad scrambles to survive. That it crams all this in in less than 90 minutes is only further to its credit; it subverts the genre with unexpected heart while remaining shrewdly concise, except perhaps for one brief mid-film lull.

While it arguably unfurls one plot twist too many in its third act, Blood Father is largely girded by its brutal return party for its leading man, which has been more than overdue. Gibson fans shouldn’t miss it, nor anyone who loves a gritty revenge thriller that takes the path less-traveled. 

*** 1/2

Blood Father is available on VOD now

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