by Hope Madden
Back in 2008, the inexplicable popularity of the mid-budget action flick Taken accomplished two things. (Three, if you count exacerbating my cynicism with the film industry.) The two noteworthy accomplishments, however, were extending the career of an aging male actor and creating a new genre of film.
If two sequels and at least half a dozen copycats (including one currently listed as filming) could turn a sixty something character actor into a mainstay action figure, couldn’t the same be done for, say, an aging action hero? Why not Stallone? Why not Schwarzenegger?
Here’s why not – they can’t act. You know who can, though? Mel Gibson.
Right, he’s looney as a tune, not to mention being a professional and social pariah, but Mad Max can kick Rambo’s ass any day and who doesn’t want to see that?
Maybe next time. Right now, though, talented French action director Jean-Francois Richet directs the lunatic in Blood Father.
The story is right out of the Liam Neeson playbook: ex-con father, clean and sober but struggling to suppress his rage and shame, needs to take action to save his teenage daughter from a drug cartel.
How will he do it? Will it be his particular set of skills?!
Of course it will. And while Blood Father is absolutely faithful to its genre, there is genuine craftsmanship in the effort. Richet allows the California desert to cast an apocalyptic spell over the tale, then brings in just enough Mad Max touches to command a burst of joy.
Gibson’s character doesn’t call for a great deal of nuance, though the actor does deliver a gruff and realistically damaged performance. He’s aided by the kind of supporting cast you just don’t find in films like these.
The great William H. Macy, the underappreciated Diego Luna, the effortlessly badass Dale Dickey, and the always welcome Michael Parks round out an ensemble talented enough to find the sun-scarred and chemical-damaged humanity in every character.
A tale told in tattoos and bullet wounds, Blood Father is still, at its heart, a love note from a shitty father to his damaged daughter – a welcome dose of near-reality in a genre saturated with creepy paternal child worship.
This is not a great movie. But you know what? I swear to God, it is not bad.