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BLOOD FATHER review: Mel Gibson may not be on the A-List but he’s still got it…

Posted on August 29th, 2016
Posted on August 29th, 2016

by Coop Cooper

More films with big stars and modest budgets have opted to premiere on Pay Per View or online than ever. Some opt for a limited theater run, with a simultaneous release on services like DirectTV (for rent) or, more often, they bypass the theater release altogether. For example, “Blood Father” starring Mel Gibson, had its premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and is now available to rent on online streaming services like YouTube, Amazon, Vudu and Google Play.

Mel Gibson plays Link, an aging ex-con recently out of the joint and sober. He barely makes ends meet running a tattoo shop out of his trailer when he suddenly gets a desperate call from his runaway addict daughter, Lydia (Erin Moriarty). Lydia has become a target of termination by a drug syndicate after shooting her dealer boyfriend (Diego Luna) during a job gone wrong. Link is shocked to see Lydia after such a long absence and wants to help her but he knows she is still using and he can’t trust her far-fetched story. He tries to help her straighten out, but when a hit squad tracks them down, he must break parole to go on the run and protect her. Turns out together, they might have enough illegal skills to survive.

“Blood Father” wallows in the gritty dirt for its entire run, spending 100% of its time in the seediest locations and situations. Addiction is treated realistically and thoughtfully. It avoids falling headfirst into exploitive grindhouse territory by keeping its tone and performances honest. Gibson shows that despite his personal shortcomings, he still has the talent to give an A-list performance. The excellent writing makes sure the story focuses on the father/daughter relationship which can be loving even in the most stressful moments of the story.

One interesting scene has Link entering a bar to track down an old acquaintance. In the middle of questioning a guy and on the verge of violence, he feels compelled to go over to a payphone and call his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor (William H. Macy), simply because he was more tempted to have a drink than punch the bartender’s face in like he planned. As he delves deeper back into his old world of bikers, white supremacists and survivalists, we – and his daughter – see just how ugly it was, proving that the criminals pursuing his daughter don’t intimidate him in the least. He even confesses to her that for an old, violent con like him, this situation is his natural territory, and he thrives in it more than sitting around in a trailer. For most kids, that would be frightening, but for somebody in Lydia’s situation, it’s a much welcomed relief as it shows he has the skills and resolve to protect her.

It’s a formulaic, yet satisfying thriller that will likely thrill fans of Mel who miss seeing him kick tail in motion pictures. It’s too mainstream to be indie, but not original enough and not up to the caliber of spectacle you see in major releases these days. It fits well into a release strategy that puts it directly into the hands of fans rather than a potentially doomed major theatrical release.

It’s not only faded starts who are in direct-release films. Matthew McConaughey starred in Gus Van Sant’s “The Sea of Trees” which released in August, yet didn’t get a wide release. While that was probably due to bad reviews, it could qualify as another example of how a movie might find a larger audience online or on PPV than on the big screen.

Take, for instance, “The Boondock Saints” (2003) which couldn’t get the stars or the budget the script deserved (mostly because of writer/director Troy Duffy’s boorish, antisocial behavior), but it has been hailed as the greatest direct-to-video success story of all time. While “Saints” was an exception to the rule, more new gems are being discovered on services like Netflix than ever with horror and sci-fi being the most popular and successful genre to utilize this method of release. Expect to see more of this, especially since recent summer box office failures have been driving audience further away from the big screen experience.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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