Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 3, 2016)
Drunken anti-Semitic rants don’t tend to be good for movie stars, and Mel Gibson has spent the last 10 years in semi-Hollywood limbo. Gibson does continue to work occasionally, though, and 2016’s Blood Father represents another effort in his attempt to put his past behind him.
17-year-old Lydia (Erin Moriarty) went missing years ago and hangs with a criminal gang. During a home invasion, her boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luno) badgers her to shoot a woman, but Lydia shoots Jonah instead.
This sends Lydia on the lam – and back into contact with her long estranged father John (Gibson). With Lydia’s life on the line, ex-con John goes into action to save her, a decision that leads down a violent path.
On the surface, the plot of Blood Father sounds fairly similar to Taken, but I think the connections remain fairly tangential. Taken and its sequels focus more on pure action, while Father attempts something a little deeper.
“Attempts” becomes the operative word, though, as I don’t think Father achieves much beyond the superficial. It hints at regrets, flaws and desperation but never digs into these on a deep level.
Instead, the movie seems oddly chipper much of the time, partly because Moriarty plays Lydia as a sitcom character. Moriarty gives the role an oddly smirky attitude that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the part and leaves the impression she’d prefer to be trading quips on Big Bang Theory.
Gibson does better as the lead, though I don’t think he stretches himself. In many ways, John feels like an older/alternate universe version of Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon. Both seem somewhat unhinged/dangerous and both offer similar attitudes. John might exist more as part of the real world than Martin, but not by much.
Father can’t quite decide what tone it wants to take. While it seems to aspire to become something dark and gritty, it only sporadically invests in those elements.
Instead, it tends to straddle different forms of atmosphere in an erratic manner. Add to that a lackluster story and the movie can feel disjointed.
Despite these flaws, Father never becomes a bad film. The action scenes deliver fairly impressive material, and the enterprise boasts enough tension to keep the viewer with it.
Nothing about the movie allows it to become above average, though. Blood Father maintains decent watchability but it seems too inconsistent and derivative to make its own name.