(MA15+) Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, William H Macy
What do Mad Max, unconditional love, Mexican drug cartels and a misunderstanding about God’s judgment have in common? Blood Father, a sizzling, full-throttle action thriller that pulls off a rare feat. For a movie about an ex-con dad (Mel Gibson) and his messed-up daughter (Erin Moriarty) on the run from baddies, Blood Father has heart and soul among the bullets and one-liners. The violence and swearing will hit you between the eyes; so will the believable portrait of parenting problems and holding yourself accountable for what you’ve done.
Gibson might have gone way off the rails in his public/private life but the Mad Max and Lethal Weapon star makes a superb return here as hard-boiled dad, John. A trailer-park tattooist trying to stay sober and out of jail, John’s contained life is blown apart when his estranged daughter Lydia (Moriarty) shows up — hounded by lethal drug runners. Kapow! And we’re off….
Based on a novel by Peter Craig, Blood Father is lean, quick and smart. John’s background makes it totally believable that he is a hard-hitting, streetwise hombre (occasionally, though, he does do and say stuff which are only ever done and said by action heroes in movies). Gibson owns John, all livewire maturity and heartfelt parental devotion. He relishes the opportunity to be a tough guy who will do anything for his daughter while pulling no punches when it comes to summing up their situation, his mistakes and her complaints. John holds Lydia to the same account as he holds himself, that you can’t act in a certain way and then try to act as if none of it mattered. Yet his make-no-excuses approach to actions and consequence won’t stop him from doing anything he can to protect his little girl.
The pursuit of Lydia seems to happen in reality, not a safe world of movie fakery. As a result of such gripping intensity, Blood Father keeps us on the hook throughout a brutal snapshot of a dad and daughter living a nightmare tinged with joyful restoration of relationship. But apart from the odd convenient or far-fetched link in the chain, the doomed tale of John and Lydia sticks doggedly to the inevitability of judgment. For as much as they flee, the noose tightens. As it does, John shares some fascinating parental wisdom that betrays a significant error about the ultimate judgment John says they’ll face.
When Lydia tearfully confesses a crime to her dad, John answers: “And you’ll face God for it. And so will I,” he adds, as if summing up his entire back catalogue of sins. “But not now.” John’s referring to how he intends to keep Lydia from being killed but, then, what if he succeeds? Won’t she still, as John himself states, have to face God for what she’s done? So, what’s the difference between facing that music now — or later on? What John seems to be teaching his daughter is, as much as we say we believe we’ll be held to account by God for how we live, many of us don’t really think it will happen.
Blood Father nails plenty of things about what we might have to live with or deal with, due to what we have done. But it does a disservice to God’s judgment by almost dismissing it as a credible notion that we can choose to ignore, as if it will go away. That’s not the case, though. As the New Testament letter to the Hebrews reports: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face [God’s] judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
I don’t know if John and Lydia ever heard about the reality of everyone having to face God’s judgment, and that being saved from that judgment is only possible by seeking forgiveness for sins through Jesus Christ (see also Acts 3:19-23, or Ephesians 1). I don’t know if you’ve heard about that reality. But it’s real. Mercifully, unlike the upshot of Blood Father‘s searing journey into accountability, there is good news to be had when it comes to ultimate judgment.
Ben McEachen is co-host of The Big Picture