I was hoping for "Blood Father" to be the gritty action movie of the year. My love for Mel Gibson may have something to do with those hopes, and I've always liked old-fashioned and simple violent movies. Not always like those of the '80s, but more like those of the '70s where everything isn't just a one-liner.
Turns out "Blood Father" isn't the action movie of the year, at times it's barely an action movie at all. It's not very intelligent and it can be a little inconsistent. It has flaws, but luckily it's so straightforward and aware of what it wants to be that I can forgive plenty. It doesn't bother with deep messages, and the exposition comes more or less naturally with good performances without forcing itself too much on you. It has dumb bluntness to it, but it's still subtle enough to not dwell in everything it brings up. That is a good thing. In most movies like this, people dance around certain events or themes. Movies tend to make big deals of them, and often they don't know when to stop, making everything feel forced and manipulative. In "Blood Father" you don't get that. Many people might find it boring or even pointless, but I find it charming and natural. It's not interested in forcing you to care. Either you do or you don't.
"Blood Father" is almost like a road trip movie, and there isn't as much action as you'd probably hope. But when there is, it's quite good. It's gritty, it's bloody and there is no over-stylized choreography involved. Not to say that some of it isn't impressive, because I surely felt the "punch" in it. When something brutal happens, the movie doesn't shove your face in it. It happened, it was there, but now it's time to move on. I like when movies don't exploit their strengths. The action, as well as everything else, is very well shot. The intensity is there, shots are well framed and the camera-work is effective. To top it all, just the sight of Mel Gibson elevates the movie every time he's on screen.
Mel Gibson is an ex-con with a shitty tattoo parlor. He certainly looks the part. He's got the beard, the crazy eyes, the tats and the body mass. Whatever you think about him, he has the capability to make any movie better, and this is no exception. He seems to do it with ease, because he's a natural talent. Usually the best "Mel moments" are those where nothing is seemingly even happening. It can be just a way how he delivers one word of dialogue or how he looks at a person. His body language and facial expression is always engaging. Little things like that make a huge difference. So yes, Mel Gibson is the best thing about this movie.
But then there's also Erin Moriarty, who plays Gibson's long-lost daughter. I can't say that I became a fan, but she certainly delivers. She plays the part of a young woman who's very lost and carries the impression of a floozy. They never go overboard with it, and you get kind of attached to her. Not very attached, because that's one problem I'll get to, but enough. She also doesn't complain and whine about daddy issues and feelings all the time, which is something I've come to expect with these characters in these movies. In the end, she plays well off of Gibson and avoids being a stereotype. Well done.
All the other actors are good too. Perhaps the highlight is Michael Parks as an almost-senile old biker who makes his money selling nazi memorabilia to certain people. Michael Parks is always great, and he isn't afraid to take all kinds of roles - in fact, his roles tend to be about repulsive assholes nowadays! We get William H. Macy and Dale Dickey too, and they're good with what they get.
So everyone is good in it. Where does the movie go wrong? It doesn't quite get you invested. While it is very straightforward and much time isn't wasted on all sorts of crap, you get the feeling that you wanted to care about these characters a bit more, maybe have a few more intense scenes with them and make the movie a big tighter. Also, sometimes it seems like the character writing isn't very consistent. For example: at one moment, Gibson may be a guilt-ridden man, trying to stay out of trouble and give his daughter some advice on life. The very next moment he could not care less about anything and is borderline reckless. The contrast isn't quite that obvious, and I did exaggerate, but it's there. It doesn't ruin the movie though, and much of it can be explained by his character itself.
In the end "Blood Father" is very simple. You get from A to B, and even if some emotional attachment and tight consistency may be lost in the way, you will surely get to B. Even if it seems like you're not getting the amount of action you hoped for, just wait when you get to B. About B, "Blood Father" is almost like a B-movie, but not quite. It's a very non-pretentious film; it isn't concerned with moral messages, plot twists, political correctness or PG-13 ratings. It dares to be its simple self, and Mel Gibson alone is a good reason to see it. Just don't expect a cult classic, adjust your expectations, and you will enjoy it for what it is. Recommended for fans of old-fashioned, small-scaled action movies that are rough around the edges.
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