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Blood Father | Review

Forgiveness of Blood: Richet Delivers Grimy Gibson in Slice of B-Movie Glory

Jean-Francois Richet Blood FatherIf you’re looking for any sort of striking originality in French director Jean-Francois Richet’s return to English language filmmaking, Blood Father, don’t bother. Like his 2005 American remake of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, this is a re-tooled, albeit violently adult rehash of endlessly recycled popular themes, featuring a formidable father figure comprised of egregiously masculine stereotypes waging war against a band of incessant criminals hell-bent on snatching his daughter. In essence, Peter Craig (son of Sally Field, adapting from his own screenplay) and Andrea Berloff’s (co-writer of Straight Outta Compton) screenplay is a less inane version of Liam Neeson/Luc Besson’s popular Taken franchise, except with more recognizable and seedier human tendencies. Those fascinated by the capabilities of the grindhouse aesthetic may find themselves enamored by a captivating Mel Gibson, who may not rise like a phoenix from the ashes of his once top-tier career, but recalibrates the trenchant ill-will surrounding his shamed persona for this staunchly monotonous yet entertaining retribution drama.

Sixteen-year-old Lydia (Erin Moriarty) finds herself in a bit of trouble. After buying bullets and bubble gum for the car full of Mexican thugs waiting outside, her boyfriend and cartel leader Jonah (Diego Luna) demands she finally prove her allegiance to them by committing an act of violence. Unable to complete the request, something goes tragically wrong, forcing the teen runaway to contact her estranged father, ex-con Link (Mel Gibson), who works out of his trailer home in the Coachella Valley as a tattoo artist, living alongside his AA mentor (William H. Macy). Eager to reconnect with her, Link compromises his newfound stability to protect her as they flee, forcing him to reunite with odious figures from his past.

Richet, perhaps most revered for his pair of Mesrine films starring Vincent Cassel in 2008, seems to be interested in exploring unconventional father-daughter dynamics since Blood Father is an interesting comparison to his 2015 remake of the Claude Berri film One Wild Moment, in which Cassel stars as a man who embarks on a tumultuous affair with his best friend’s adolescent daughter. Much like the troubled domestic relationships there, Gibson and Moriarty provide unexpected comedic undercurrents, a chemistry enhancing what’s otherwise another rehash of an unsophisticated chase film as they cut a swath through seedy motels and sun burnt panoramas cluttered with the usual underbelly caricatures.

Gibson’s grizzled mug is entirely apropos, his world weary resignation seeping in whenever he isn’t called to action sequences (including a motorcycle chase which seems keen to remind us of his Mad Max lineage) requiring brutal violence. If Erin Moriarty doesn’t seem a reasonable choice to play a sixteen year old, she manages a sympathetic agreeableness alongside Gibson. This dribbles into mawkish territory for a predictable third act (where Lydia is abducted from a movie theater showing Richet’s Assault), and the actor is a bit too primped and polished for a young lass who’s been strung out and colluding with cartel figures for a decent chunk of her nubile existence.

William H. Macy does what character actors do best by imbuing a thankless supporting character with humanistic flourishes, while Diego Luna isn’t entirely credible as a spoiled drug lord punk. But Michael Parks scores a creepy sequence as a man who owes Gibson a considerable favor, an ex-biker turned Nazi paraphernalia salesman (with the usually entertaining Dale Dickey hiding in his shadow).

Taking place in Southern California’s lonely, dusty hinterlands (despite a solo sequence in Santa Monica), Blood Father does what it can with a demure budget, which tends to enhance the fiber of its characters but detracts from a final showdown demanding a bit more gravitas.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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