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Blood Father

The rehabilitation of Mel Gibson's career, which was dealt a sledgehammer blow by leaked audio recordings in 2010, continues with a muscular lead role in Blood Father, adapted from the book by Peter Craig. Unshaven, foul-mouthed and covered in tattoos, Gibson strikes an imposing figure and there are tantalising parallels between the actor's personal journey of redemption and his jailbird character's anguished return from the brink of self-destruction. The Taken film series starring Liam Neeson, in which a father risks life and limb to protect his imperilled child, provides a loose template for Jean-Francois Richet's pulpy revenge thriller, which is crudely bolted together with lashings of blood and sweat, and a few crocodile tears. Handheld camerawork gives the picture a rough and ready feel, including a couple of nervy shoot-outs. The script, co-written by author Craig and Andrea Berloff, succeeds best when it allows Gibson to bristle with rage in close-up. As soon as the poorly sketched characters start talking, particularly the daughter at the centre of the carnage who we are supposed to care about, the unmistakable whiff of a trashy B-movie comes through strongly. Ex-convict John Link (Gibson) is two years sober and piecing together his life with the help of parole sponsor Kirby (William H Macy). "I can't fix everything I broke. All I can do is not drink," notes John in a moment of self-reflection. Out of the blue, he receives a reverse charge telephone call from his estranged daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty), who ran away from home while he was behind bars. She has fallen in with a bad crowd and has accidentally shot dead her gang leader boyfriend, Jonah (Diego Luna), during a visit to one of his safe houses. Now Lydia is on the run from gun-toting gang members and needs money to disappear. John agrees to shelter her and sets about wrestling his daughter free from the icy grip of her drug and alcohol addiction. Realising he will have to break parole, John hits the road with Lydia in tow. They call in a debt from John's former associate Preacher (Michael Parks) and rely on the kindness of a motel night manager (Thomas Mann) to escape a tattooed hit man (Raoul Trujillo). However, with a tempting 30,000 US dollar bounty on their heads, John and Lydia will need more than luck to survive. Blood Father is a perfect showcase for Gibson as a grizzled action hero but he's far better than the screenwriting. Moriarty struggles to endear us to her disenfranchised good girl, so when the bullets start flying, we genuinely couldn't care if she tumbles into an early grave. A linear plot screeches towards a predictably grisly resolution feels, but does afford Gibson myriad opportunities to toss out quips as he dispatches foes with steely intent.