There’s a certain charm to Jean-Francois Richet’s Blood Father, a traditionalist actioner that follows the beats of the genre in an affectionate, comforting way. But to be generic is frustrating and underwhelming when considering the man at the helm, as the French filmmaker comes off of the back of the impressive Mesrine two-parter, trying his hand in the English language for the first time since Assault on Precinct 13 back in 2005.
Mel Gibson plays John Link, an ex-con turned tattoo artist who finds himself unwittingly caught up in a world he once left behind, when his estranged, missing 17 year old daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty) finds herself on the run from the uncompromising drug dealer Jonah (Diego Luna), who is trying to hunt her down and kill her, after she accidentally shot at him during a haphazard criminal undertaking. Though not wanting to break his parole, John feels an obligation as a father to lend a hand, and so manages to evade the the watchful eye of his loyal sponsor Kirby (William H. Macy) and protect his troubled daughter.
Though archetypal of the action thriller, Richet comes equipped with a foreigner’s perspective, which serves this endeavour well. For he has a romanticised, overtly cinematic take on the States – which so many of us have who aren’t from there – and it’s that affectionate eye which illuminates the screen; not only creating an indelible aesthetic, but managing to implement tropes of the western genre in a way that is respectful and not imitative. When presenting a film as something of a classic actioner, you need a classic action antihero, and Gibson fits the role perfectly, being such a dependable leading man, while bringing a droll sense of wit to proceedings and a certain reliability, where you always trust him to come out on top.
In that regard there are shades of Liam Neeson in Taken, and Gibson couldn’t go far wrong emulating the aforementioned actor and trying to find more roles of this nature. Also like Taken, Blood Father is old-fashioned and conventional, and while at times that’s an endearing proposition, it can also be detrimental to proceedings – and in this instance, it manages to find a happy medium between the two.