Clocking in at a svelte, sub-90 minutes, director Jean-Francois Richet’s adaptation of a 2005 Peter Craig page-turner is a violent, grungy, Peckinpah-lite action thriller that’s worth checking out just to be reminded how powerful an actor Mel Gibson continues to be even—if the parts aren’t coming like they once were. Erin Moriarty stars as Lydia, a 17-year-old, little-girl-lost runaway who falls in with a charismatic heavy linked to a Mexican drug cartel (Diego Luna, too boyish and pretty to buy as truly threatening). After the brutality of his day job gets a little too real, she wants out. But where can she go? The answer is into the arms of her ex-con father, Gibson’s John Link, who’s trying to get back onto the straight and narrow with the help of his AA Sponsor, played by William H. Macy.
Richet, who’s best known for the 2005 remake of John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 and his two-part 2008 French crime epic Mesrine, doesn’t try to disguise the fact that he’s essentially doing a skeezier riff on Liam Neeson’s Taken movies (the bloody limits a father will go to to protect his daughter). And there are stretches of the film when the formula falls flat. But then Gibson comes along and gives the clichés some bareknuckle ferocity. No one combines pathos and hair-trigger rage better. With his shaggy grey beard, pack-a-day rasp, and weathered face that looks like a baseball mitt that’s been left out in the sun too long, he makes you feel a parent’s unconditional desperation and ability to forgive. You can debate whether or not Gibson has fully served his time in Hollywood jail, but as a halfway-house pitstop on the road back to A-list projects, this B-movie is a solid step in the right direction. B
Blood Father (2016 film)