2016; directed by Jean-François Richet; adapted by Andrea Berloff and Peter Craig; 88 mins
In my new capacity as a broadcasting film critic, I had to catch up with everything that was on at the cinemas. Two films that were out were Clint Eastwood’s Sully and Blood Father. One is a serious, Oscar contending biopic about an average American hero’s triumph over adversity with a multiple-Academy-Award-winning team behind it and the other is a down and dirty, scuzzy, B-movie action thriller whose only selling point is it’s disgraced leading man. One of them was smart, witty, well made, moving and engaging. It wasn’t Sully.
Mel Gibson is John Link! Ex con! Going straight! His daughter, Lydia, though is involved with a Mexican drug cartel but after a botched raid on somebody’s house, she shoots the wrong person and is forced to seek refuge with her estranged Dad and drags him into a fight for survival!
This is being very much touted as Mel Gibson’s return to the spotlight after his very public downfall but it’s very much a buddy movie between him and Erin Moriarty who plays his daughter. Their back-and-forth is really believable and grounded and becomes the real driving force of the movie, when I said it was moving and engaging, it was. They really spark off each other and there is great caring feeling on both sides. It’s not a relationship that’s about the old-timer crim teaching the stupid young person how the world works but neither is it young, cool kid teaches dangerous, worldly old-timer to get with it. It’s about the pair of them chipping the edges off one another and searching for their old partnership as a father and as a daughter.
Jean-François Richet is a very underrated director and it’s thanks to him that this movie works as well as it does. Look at previous works such as Mesrine and the Assault on Precinct 13 remake and you can see that he is as much interested in the characters driving the plot as he is the action and he knows that you cannot have one without the other. This is easily his best work because he has honed his skills to give us a conventional action thriller that doesn’t push any boundaries but takes all those conventions and does them to the best of his abilities.
The casting really gives it some oomph with craggy faced William H. Macy, Michael Parks and the fearsome Raoul Trujillo alongside Gibson’s mosaic face. Diego Luna is always a welcome presence as Lydia’s stroppy rich-kid boyfriend, Jonah but praise must go to Erin Moriarty who really holds her own with the cast and beautifully navigates her character well. Because of her, Lydia becomes real both as a crazymixedup wannabe bad girl and as a needful daughter. “Needful” rather than needy because she does feel like she is her own person despite her reliance on Dad.
Sully maybe raking in the money and the good notices but it’s average at best and Blood Father is the better movie by a country mile.