I have not seen a Mel Gibson film in 14 years (not since Signs). In those 14 years, Gibson directed The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, went racisty insane, and got backhanded by pretty much the entire world. Gibson has made a few small movies since he’s been back, and is planning to direct a sequel to The Passion of the Christ focusing on The Resurrection, but Blood Father is getting a lot of critical acclaim, so I decided to give it a chance.
You think it would be covered in Film Villain’s School that messing with Mel Gibson’s family in a movie is an extremely good way to die a horrible death. If there’s a continuing theme to the movies Gibson has made it’s: if you mess with my family, I will kill you. So in Blood Father, someone messes with Mel’s family and a body count ensues. I too was shocked.
Perhaps the reason for a lot of the acclaim for Blood Father is that it is, in many ways, an allegory for Gibson’s journey down the rabbit hole. He plays a wreck of an ex-con who has ruined his own life, when all of a sudden his 17-year-old daughter drops in with the Cartel on her heels, and most of the film is simply a chase to stay ahead of a wave of death chasing after them. Gibson has a lot of dialogue about how he ruined his life and all the regrets he has that could be taken as a “real life on film” apology for his actions (for which there really is no apology).
Blood Father‘s best character, and I wish there was more of him, is Gibson’s sponsor: a fellow trailer park dead-end played by William H. Macy. As he always does, Macy makes every scene he’s in better, and if there were more of him and less of angry, brooding Gibson, maybe I would agree with the 86% positive rating the film has on Rotten Tomatoes. Blood Father is a pedestrian film. It’s the kind of action movie you stumble across while flipping through the channels because you can’t sleep and watch because it requires no thought whatsoever. I’ve seen Gibson play an angry man defending his family a dozen times (and in MUCH better films), and nothing about the rest of the supporting cast or the film’s lazy script does anything to justify the kind of praise this film is getting.
As hateful as his past actions have been, I don’t personally have any hatred for Gibson (but then I’m not in one of the umpteen groups of people he racially slurred). If I started judging films based on what I thought of actors’ personal lives, I’d have to stop watching movies altogether. My take on Gibson is that he’s mentally ill. Up until his breakdown, he had worked in Hollywood for decades and had no history (that I know of) of the kind of incidents that brought down his career. His father is clearly insane, and I think making The Passion of the Christ triggered enough biological and childhood land mines to drive him completely bonkers. I hope he is getting help and finds his way back; I really do. However, Blood Father is not a triumphant return to the best films of Mel’s career. It’s just a below-average action movie whose primary attribute is that it’s only 88 minutes long.