Friday, September 2, 2016

[Review] Blood Father

Iconic actor and general maniac Mel Gibson makes a grizzled return in the uneven but entertainingly brutal Blood Father.

Within the bronze desert rust, we meet the M.I.A. Lydia (Erin Moriarty) who has been dragged into her boyfriend's drug cartel activities. After she gets into some deep shit, she calls upon her estranged father--a tough ex-con tattoo artist battling alcoholism (played by Gibson). The two troubled souls reunite and go on the run, while Feds and gangsters are coming straight for their heads.

Early on, the film has a rough time establishing a consistent tone. Its serious edge gets interrupted with some flat attempts at humor and embarrassing dialogue. During an awkward scene where Lydia is high as a kite and horribly playing a clarinet, she actually says "You must be tone deaf." The script also seems to have completely disregarded the 'show don't tell' strategy, as it contains a couple redundantly expository scenes of Lydia just telling her dad long stories about how she ended up where she is. Even worse--one of the stories she tells is what happened in the opening scene of the movie, so we've literally already seen the dang thing. With all that said, there are some amusingly memorable lines that cut through the nonsense, like when Mel Gibson yells "I'll see you on the inside you chickenshit motherfucker!"

An odd bunch of characters make up the supporting cast, but unfortunately they don't add much. William H. Macy plays Gibson's sponsor, and he's a bit too campy. Thomas Mann from Me & Earl & the Dying Girl is an oblivious motel worker and it's just bland and disappointing. Grungy southern gothic regular Dale Dickey (Winter's Bone, "Justified") makes an appearance, and the film really could've used more of her. Michael Parks plays a raspy white supremacist, and he gives a cheesy heavy-handed midpoint monologue about not running away from your problems that concludes with "Can you dig it?" I would've only accepted that line if Shaq was saying it.

As flawed and ridiculous (the not-good ridiculous) as this thing is, the unflinching hardcore action is enough to make you roll with the bad stretches. A wicked escape sequence from a Sicario-occupied motel is a particular highlight. There's also a shootout in the barrens that might bring about "Breaking Bad" flashbacks. And the last 15 minutes pack some hellacious, pulpy mayhem that I won't spoil.

Erin Moriarty was pretty good in a small part during this year's Captain Fantastic, but here she brings a Lifetime-y essence that's frankly cringeworthy to watch. As for Mel, he's solid as a rock here. It's an ideally gruff yet hearty role for him. One might even view it as a referential redemption plot. Maybe.

( 7/10 )

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