The standard method for bringing foreign language directors into the Hollywood fold is to offer them billboard actors and simplistic, cookie cutter scripts. Welcome to the suck, Jean-François Richet, a man whose name should henceforth be synonymous with this practice.
The life of ex-convict and recovering alcoholic John Link (Mel Gibson) is shattered when his daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty), missing for several years, suddenly appears in his trailer with a score of angry drug dealers on her tail. The unwilling father has to dig back into his ugly past in order to keep her safe.
Blood Father is trope codifier for this tired, old world narrative about the role of men safeguarding vulnerable women, and how blood ties are unbreakable. Funny then that Lydia’s equally estranged mother is absent, save for a ten-second phone call in which the reason she gives for abandoning the search for her missing daughter is, “I have a life now”.
It touches an unexpected nerve, in that it places Gibson in the role of an alcoholic bigot; a role to which he’s taken a decidedly method approach. While the film’s efforts at ‘redeeming’ the character are laughably predictable, there’s some small nuance in the performance, and Link’s zingers are the only interesting factor in an otherwise repellently mundane script.
Nevertheless, racial stereotyping is part and parcel to the film, with Link’s token broken white man pitted against a caricature of a Mexican cartel. Peter Craig, the film’s writer, attempts to paper over the issue with a condescending scene in the back of a truck: when Link spits abuse at the illegal immigrants he’s hunkering down with, Lydia takes to her Mary Sue soapbox and ‘destroys racism forever’, in a scene that echoes the tonal incongruity of Suicide Squad’s ‘humorous’ reshoots. Yet, Link’s racial enmities are quickly forgotten when it’s convenient for him to have a Hispanic insider provide intel on the central villain, Jonah (Diego Luna).
Not to mention that every gun-toting crim has been to bad guy training, to the point where a trained sicario with a scoped rifle and a high-ground advantage is outgunned by an injured redneck with a pistol. Or the ludicrous transparency of Link’s coded messages, signed off with the same name he uses for a business operating under his parole conditions.
It’s impossible to spoil the film. If you’ve seen an action flick before, you’ve seen Blood Father. Gibson’s final lines are genuinely disgusting, and reinforce every turgid value that the film as a whole treats as gospel. There’s no integrity, no heart and no soul to this pre-packaged junk. So why does it star William H. Macy and Michael Parks, the latter merely trotted out to rehash his Red State role?
Richet’s lamentable effort is a waste of three talented actors, a waste of your money and time, and a waste even of its own exhausted premise. Its only questionable value is as a disturbing reflection on Mel Gibson, the man.