Blood Father, with Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, William H Macy, Diego Luna. Directed by Jean-Francois Richet.
MEL Gibson returns to gritty action movies in this story of an ex-convict trying to protect his estranged, wayward daughter from a crime cartel.
It has been pointed out that Gibson could very well have been drawing on his own demons for this role of an alienated, recovering alcoholic who has hurt those closest to him.
Gibson plays John Link, known to his former cellmates as “the Missing Link”, now living a quiet, boring life as a tattoo artist in an arid trailer park in the Californian desert.
He goes to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with his sponsor, Kirby (William H Macy), who lives in the same trailer park.
We meet Link’s estranged daughter, 17-year-old Lydia (Erin Moriarty), buying bullets at a supermarket. In a not-so-subtle display of irony by the filmmakers, she can’t buy cigarettes without an ID.
The bullets, it turns out, are for the gang of thugs she is hanging out with, one of whom is her boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna), an instantly despicable louse who bends her to his will and plies her with drugs.
The group of thugs run enforcement for a corrupt property rental business, and Jonah forces Lydia to join them in the interrogation of tenants who apparently stole money from them. With a man lying dead on the floor, Jonah instructs Lydia to shoot a woman who is not giving them the information they want.
She refuses, but shoots in fright when the woman struggles, accidentally hitting Jonah and killing him, or so she thinks. On the run from his fellow gang members, she contacts her father out of desperation, hoping he can give her money.
Surprised to hear from his missing daughter, Link drives to Santa Monica to pick her up amid the wretched throng of humanity there, and takes her back to his trailer park.
But the thugs come knocking, and racking up parole violations as he defends his daughter, Link flees with her. He and Lydia have to evade both the police and a cartel assassin sent after them.
In between, we get a bit of preachiness about the contribution Mexican migrants make to the US economy.
Link heads to the home of one of his old friends, Preacher (Michael Parks), who owes him money and the favour of keeping his mouth shut when he was sentenced to prison. Preacher is at first accommodating, then plots to turn him in for a reward. A high-speed motorcycle chase adds some excitement.
They hole up in a hotel and Link seeks out old prison buddies for information. But eventually the cartel catches up to them and it all ends with a shootout in the desert. A predictable but satisfying conclusion.