Genre: Thriller, Action, Road Movie

Mel Gibson returns in a film based on a novel by Peter Craig which is basically the opposite of Taken (2008). Ex-convict John Link (Gibson) seems more irked than relieved to have his 17 year old daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty) return home to him after years of being absent. And a coke addiction isn’t the only thing she’s brought home with her – soon they’re on the run from a bunch of deadly drug dealers who want to kill her.

In the first few minutes of Blood Father, we’re thrown headfirst into a world of drugs, violence and bad language. Lydia and her gang are about to raid a house and to calm her nerves she’s offered a bump of coke. Then as she takes it, we zoom in on the action. In this moment of sensationalism I dreaded the road ahead. Was this going to be trash? But I misjudged. Thinking with a closed mind, I forgot how dark and hard-hitting exploitative cinema really could be. (In the film’s later moments, Larry Clark’s Bully (2001) comes to mind as reference for style).

The film is brutally serious. Link’s quick-witted sarcasm is the only thing that really offers some relief, and we never really have time to laugh. But director Jean-Francois Richet isn’t afraid to venture away from gunshots and explosions to deliver the heavy tone. Instead he takes us into bars, on the backs of trucks, through gardens, fields and motels. He pays attention to very real characters and relationships.

The most important of these of course is the relationship between Link and his daughter. He wasn’t there for her when she was growing up and he wishes he was. Now she’s involved in crime and drugs and he wishes he could hate her for it but he can’t – because he’s been there himself and he understands. But Link is a grown man, he’s bad-ass because he’s done all this crime-violence shit before and he’s cool with it, whereas Lydia flaunts herself around, she drinks whiskey, she sniffs coke – in his eyes she’s careless. She doesn’t know how his world works.

But they’re from different worlds. As Link comes to realize, she’s actually got more going for her than he thought. She speaks perfect Spanish for example. And he’s initially pissed off at her flinging herself on the bar to talk with some seedy losers, until she comes back with some key information.

Amidst the films neo-western setting, we meet an aging biker gang, the last remnants of a time soon to be forgotten. Link’s old friend Preacher (Michael Parks) explains to Lydia as she sits on a tattered couch illuminated by the light of the campfire: the world is changing – it’s dying – and those of you who live today will soon forget what came before. It’s a gorgeous moment of film that illuminates that gap, that missing link of understanding between the young and old, father and daughter. And somehow throughout their bloody road trip John and Lydia Link manage to find that link between them. Their bonding throughout the film is a joy to watch, and culminates in an ending that may even provoke tears.