Blood Father

France | 2016 | Directed by Jean-François Richet

Logline: An ex-con is reunited with his estranged teenaged daughter and must protect her from the relentless drug dealers who want her dead.

Link (Mel Gibson) has seen better days, a decade ago, before he did nine years for a bunch of stuff he’d probably rather forget, but he’s gonna need to call on those resources and skills soon enough. He’s passing time and making a quick buck inking cougars and wastrels from his desert trailer park. His wife doesn’t want a bar of him, his AA sponsor, Kirby (William H. Macy), lives a few trailers along, and his teenaged daughter, Lydia (Erin Moriarty) ran away a couple of years back. 

Lydia is a pretty, wayward girl. She’s gotten in over her head. Hitched up with a dodgy drug thug, Jonah (Diego Luna), whose cartel connections are very dangerous. Things go pear-shaped during a house invasion-cum-enforcement, and Lydia finds herself at wits’ end. She makes a call to daddy, who drops everything to scoop her up in his big arms. Link soon discovers his 16-year-old daughter is not the pristine apple of his eye. Just as swiftly the angry Latino lads are on the scene, and even worse, The Cleaner (Raoul Trujillo), a sicario, has his sights set firmly on Lydia, and whomever gets in the way.

Author Peter Craig (son of Sally Field) has adapted his own novel with Andrea Berloff, who recently penned the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton. It’s an absolutely cracking script with dynamite dialogue, and provides Gibson with a really strong return to form, and Blood Father is so much better than his previous attempt at a comeback, Get the Gringo. Y’know, it really is a crying shame Gibson wasn’t cast as an aging Max Rockatansky in Fury Road. But that’s another kettle of fish.

It might be American pulp fiction, but it’s a French production, and perhaps that’s why it has such a sharp, fresh edge to it. Richet is excellent at pacing and delivering blistering set-pieces. His epic two-parter, Mesrine, which starred Vincent Cassell, was one of the best crime dramas of the past ten years. He handles the violence and menace with brutal efficiency, reminding of Luc Besson and Martin Scorsese when they were at the top of their game.

It’s definitely Mel’s vehicle, but Erin Moriarty delivers strong support. I wasn’t entirely convinced at first, but she won me over. The Latino support cast are all solid, but special mention must go to Michael Parks, who plays Link’s shell-shocked, old crony Preacher. He doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but boy, he chews the scenery in blistering, leathery fashion.

Blood Father is classic genre fare, and boy is it a load of hard fun. There are some great slaps of comedy, and it’s a real pleasure to watch Mel take the bull by the horns again. Action thriller fans would be foolish not to catch this on the big screen. One of my favourites of the year.