Mel Gibson gets entertainingly sleazy in thriller ‘Blood Father’

Gibson and Moriarty ride on.

Three and a half stars

Blood Father Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna. Directed by Jean-Francois Richet. Rated R. Now playing at Brenden Palms; available August 26 on VOD.

In a way, Mel Gibson’s lingering disreputable position in Hollywood has given him a unique freedom to make the kind of movies he’d never make as a big mainstream star. Blood Father is a grubby, seat-of-the-pants B-movie, full of nasty, close-quarters violence and sleazy characters. But it’s also entertaining as hell, with a great performance from Gibson as an ex-con seeking redemption who can’t deny his baser impulses.

Gibson’s John Link is two years sober and one year out of prison, living in a trailer in the California desert and scraping together a meager living as a tattoo artist. When his estranged teenage daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty) calls him unexpectedly after years of no contact, he doesn’t hesitate to defend her from some very bad people that she’s unwisely crossed. Both John and Lydia have made poor choices in their lives, but they’re determined to do right by each other despite their past mistakes.

Gibson and Moriarty have strong chemistry as two people trying to re-establish a familial bond while being chased and shot at, and the supporting cast is full of memorable lowlifes, including William H. Macy as John’s put-upon AA sponsor, Michael Parks as the leader of John’s old biker gang and Diego Luna as the unhinged drug dealer determined to hunt Lydia down. The script from Peter Craig and Andrea Berloff (based on Craig’s novel) is full of amusingly dark humor, and Gibson brings a perverse sense of fun to his character’s obvious death wish. The plot of Blood Father is nothing new, and some choppy editing prevents it from being an entirely smooth ride, but it’s a perfect fit for Gibson, an enjoyable but slightly scuzzy movie for an actor who’s free to make them.

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