Guns guns guns, blah blah blah… Mel Gibson may have been a little hungry for roles of late, and his character in Jean-Farançois Richet’s Blood Father may fit him like a glove, but the glove is ugly and old-fashioned, unsuited for these times. It is a movie no-one needs, a redundant, obsolete thing.
Mel plays an ex-con recovering alcoholic tattooist (!) whose young adult daughter is being pursued by extremely tattooed Mexican thugs after she shoots one of their head honchos. Mel would like to play on the straight and narrow, of course, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, so, of course, Mel has to pick up a gun. The difference between his character here and Clint Eastwood’s violent alcoholic in Unforgiven is that Eastwood gave in and picked up the bottle first. Not here. Mel can shoot, but goddamnit, he won’t drink!
Of course, there’s a lot of attempted meta-comedy going on here. The alcoholism is treated as one big joke on Gibson’s actual life; his profession as a tattooist was the one he was going to play in the second Hangover sequel before being ejected from that cinematic masterpiece; halfway through the film, he shaves, and, once he does, is accused of being ugly (Mel Gibson ugly? Hilarious!) None of it adds up to a worthy reason for being.
During his exile years, Gibson appeared in a similar film, Get The Gringo (2012), that was really good – exciting, witty and clever. Blood Father – such an awful title! – is none of those things, and its celebration of the gun is really hideous. It has two things going for it: excellent desert cinematography by Robert Gantz and a breakout performance by Erin Moriarty as the daughter. Okay, maybe one more thing: Gibson looks great in a beard.