The silver lining in Mel Gibson’s infamous meltdown, if there is one, is that it forced him out of his ridiculous descent into Oscar bait and steered him back into B-movie territory. I couldn’t care less about Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ, or Apocalypto. Like so many movie stars, he understandably wanted to prove to the world he has range—and he does—but let’s not pretend he wasn’t taking himself just a little too seriously. Lethal Weapon, on the other hand, really was something unique, a balancing act nobody else in the world could’ve pulled off. Meanwhile Hamlet, though sufficient, was just another Shakespeare adaptation.
spoilers in this trailer
His post-meltdown roles, so far, have been amusing at best (he’s the only reason you need to see Machete Kills). Edge of Darkness and Get the Gringo, neither one of which I managed to finish, seemed to prove he was having trouble finding his footing. Yet I believe with Blood Father he’s rediscovered his purpose in film. Or maybe he’s just grown comfortable with the fact he’s a much better movie star than a serious thespian.
Make no mistake: this is little more than a run-of-the-mill B-movie. It just happens to be a good run-of-the-mill B-movie, which also features William H. Macy and Michael Parks. The character he plays, Link, is a guy who’s more or less exactly where the real life Gibson is at this point in his career: he’s made some mistakes and he’s at least trying to be a better person. The ex-con has settled down in a small desert community where he keeps his head low, attends AA meetings everyday, and works as a tattoo artist.
Then there’s his estranged teenage daughter, Lydia, who has gotten herself mixed in with dangerous people. Her introduction, which is the opening scene, is worrisome because it’s got the wrong feel to it: MTV editing, choppy pacing, and a complete and utter lack of fun. In this scene we see her shoot her drug dealing boyfriend, which puts a hefty price on her head. Then she has no one else she can turn to but her dear old pops, who’s disgusted to find she’s making some of the same stupid decisions he made in life.
Whereas most movies like this get me on board early only to lose me by the end, this one quickly softens its initial straight-to-video feel and switches over to a tone we’d expect from a drive-in theater twenty years ago. It manages to dazzle and entertain on a relatively small budget, which is really all I’m asking for. And the first time we see Gibson is in a close-up which details every crack and wrinkle in his troubled face, assuring us this isn’t the same guy we were familiar with before his publicity trouble began.
The action scenes are a little too choppily edited for my liking, but it’s still a fun ride. I want to see Gibson do more of this. Hell, put him in a movie in which he and Liam Neeson simply threaten bad guys over the phone for two hours and I’d be in hog heaven.