Some of the greatest films contain performances that felt like they were made specifically for the actor. It goes beyond method acting, where the actor ends up bending to every aspect of the role. What I’m talking about are films where the actor not only embodies the character, but also completely convinces the audience that the actor and character are one and the same. In Blood Father, Mel Gibson lends his voice and demeanor to a role that could easily be seen as an expression of Gibson’s personal life.
There is an authenticity that Mel Gibson’s casting gives to his character. Gibson lends the very public perception of his personal life to the character. Mel Gibson is Link. They both share a cantankerous outlook on life and are trying to reform themselves, desperately trying to make up for past mistakes while constantly being tempted to fall into old habits. Gibson embodies this everyman on a level we couldn’t even imagine. He is us on our worst day, just trying to make it through. The character of Link speaks to my crotchety side, making him completely relatable and surprisingly sympathetic.
As for Gibson, he returns to the screen as a grittier action “hero” than we are used to. While slowly trying to rehabilitate his career, Gibson manages to remind us of the gravitas he can bring to a role. Despite his heinous personal problems, he can still deliver a strong performance. Gibson isn’t the only person who brings their strong presence to the screen. In this group of acting veterans, we get effective, if brief, performances from the likes of Michael Parks, William H. Macy, and Diego Luna. There is even a small surprise appearance by Thomas Mann, who blew us all away with last year’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
Blood Father surprisingly takes your typical road trip film and adds a coming-of-age story. Even though the daughter, Lydia (Erin Moriarty), is beyond her teenage years, her arrested development gives Gibson’s character a chance to become a sympathetic, hardened father figure. Blood Father ultimately comes off as a character revisiting of Mel Gibson’s greatest hits. Gibson’s presence and familiarity are what elevates this otherwise very familiar film to something more enjoyably farcical.
Writers Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton) and Peter Craig (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay) have experience creating compelling anti-hero characters. They’ve crafted reluctant heroes before, and they continue to show just how capable they are this time around. Aside from the main character, the rest of the characters and story are very basic. They are developed competently but take every conceivably predictable approach possible.
Director Jean-François Richet creates a world that we know exists even if we’ve never personally had the chance to experience it. Over his past films, Richet has become adept establishing realistic environments full of genuine characters and believable action/violence. Crafting minimalist action sequences in natural settings is something Richet has had a lot of practice with over the years, and Blood Father easily benefits from it. The approach may be common and fairly basic, but that is exactly what this film needs considering how character driven it is.
Blood Father had the makings of a solid, if not forgettable, action-thriller, but had little more than that going for it. Despite the competent script and experienced directing, this film would have just been middling without the performances to inject some personality into it. Above them all is Mel Gibson with a potentially paralleling story of redemption and regret. Whether this film is enough to make audiences forget about his myriad of personal mistakes is hard to tell, but Blood Father makes me want to give him a chance and hear him out through his future performances.
Rating: ★★★★★★★ (7/10 stars)