Blood Father Review: Mad Mel’s Mission


Director: Jean-Francois Richet

Writer: Peter Craig, Andrea Berloff

Stars: Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, William H. Macy, Diego Luna

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Release date: August 31st, 2016

Distributor: SND Films

Country: France, USA

Running time: 88 minutes


3½/5

Best part: Gibson’s committed performance.

Worst part: The gangbanger villains.

2016 marks big, bad actor/director Mel Gibson’s shiny return to the big screen. Is it ok to accept the artist despite the controversies? Should we forgive and forget despite serious – and possibly unresolved – social problems? Whatever the case, Gibson is back with action-thriller Blood Father and directorial effort Hacksaw Ridge.

Blood Father kicks off with American war veteran and ex-hardened criminal turned convict John Link (Gibson) in a mediocre existence. Thanks to his parole officer’s orders, he is unable to drink, do drugs, or leave the state. Stuck in a dead-end tattoo business, housed in his caravan home, he longs to find his missing daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty). Lydia’s life goes from bad to worse. Influenced by her drug-running boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna), she joins his assault on tenants occupying cartel-owned homes. After an accidental shooting, she runs off and meets up with Link. The cartel’s baddest are hot on their trail.

Obviously, Blood Father lacks the big-budget prowess of Gibson’s 1980s/90s hey day. The veteran performer can do ‘dark and gritty’ this in his sleep. Director Jean-Francois Richet (Public Enemy #1, the Assault on Precinct 13 remake) boils everything down to essential elements. This little known director tackles one of Hollywood’s best (watch Braveheart and Apocalypto for confirmation) and gets his way. His style provides Gibson some meat to chew on. The drama builds slowly throughout the first half. As Link and Lydia steadily come together, the story delves into their broken lives. Richet and co. revel in Link’s dour existence. As Link and Lydia team up, the man-on the-run thread lightens the tone. That slight elevation from depressing to gritty builds the excitement.

Make to mistake, this is comfort food cinema. The ‘heroes are bad, villains are worse’ plot works well here. While the violence raises the stakes. Peter Craig and Andrea Berloff’s script provides fun surprises and an off-beat sense of humor. Their witty one-liners and lean sarcasm balance the jarring tonal shifts. The opening scene is a highlight; laughing at America’s lackadaisical gun laws. Link’s friend Kirby (William H. Macy), on the surface, is an nice-guy/target archetype. However, the writers and Macy make us care. His nasty gags and protective nature are worthwhile attributes for an otherwise throwaway supporting character. Gibson is the stand out performer – proving he still has the charisma and ferocity to pull off meaningful roles. Moriarty, however, is somewhat bland.

Blood Father recalls Gibson’s action-movie good ol’ days. Discussing the icon’s past, present and future, it is much deeper than most may give it credit for. At the very least, it is worth at least one Saturday afternoon viewing on Netflix.

Verdict: A fun, lazy-afternoon watch.

Project X Review – Frat Boy Farce


Director: Nima Nourizadeh

Writers: Matt Drake, Michael Bacall

Stars: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Kirby Bliss Blanton


Release date: March 2nd, 2012

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 88 minutes


 

3½/5

Best part: The party.

Worst part: The unlikeable characters.

With the increasing popularity of found footage films hitting theatres, the movement is constantly having to spread into different genres to stay fresh. Recent hits Chronicle and now Project X have both successfully interpreted common genres through the exploration of the american teenager. Project X re-invents the frat boy comedy through fun yet shocking almost apocalyptic events.

Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper & Jonathan Daniel Brown.

With a similar set up to the 2007 cult hit Superbad, we are introduced to three horny, unpopular teenage boys all desperately wanting the life of boozing, drugs and girls so many of their classmates already have. Thomas (Thomas Mann) is forced by his obnoxious friends Costa (Oliver Cooper) and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown) to throw a huge party for his 17th birthday. With his parents conveniently out of town for the weekend, what should’ve been a small get together soon spirals out of control as their insane desire for popularity and girls leads them into several preposterous situations.

Alexis Knapp.

Catering specifically towards the teenage audience definitely works for this film. It cuts all the crap as rules and curfews are replaced with one insatiable temptation after another. A bevy of topless chicks, drunken debauchery, drugs and even a large bouncy castle are on display, creating the perfect image of an insanely fun shindig. First time director Nima Nourizadeh does a surprisingly impressive job with keeping a tight leash on this documentation of american house parties. One montage after another, accompanied by one hell of a Rap and Hip Hop soundtrack, creates the slow motion turn on for any teenage boy. Bouncing bodies, destruction and instant popularity for geeky teenagers take up every hand held frame. This comes as no surprise from producer Todd Phillips as his directorial efforts (The Hangover films, Old School) illustrate exactly how to party. Every scene of this film is a reminder of the photo montages at the end of The Hangover films as we see what could have happened on both those nights. With the consequences of this off the wall gathering ready to kick in at any moment, the anticipation of what will set it of and where it will go, constantly builds; leading of course to one over the top and destructive plot twist after another. The cinema verite style strives to realistically document the ultimate night for an american public school teen.

“I’m gonna go have a long cry, and then start calling some lawyers.” (Costa (Oliver Cooper), Project X).

The host’s dog.

Though uncontrolled and unfocused at points, the characters behind the cameras manage to stay away from temptation and effectively capture everything going right and wrong for our three dweeby main characters. The hand held style does however feel unbelievable at points. Despite crediting Warner Bros. for the different sources of footage (an over used gimmick in itself), the constant slow motion montages and underwater effects distract from this so called ‘realistic’ version of event documentation. This celebration of bad behaviour owes many of its predictable plot lines and unrealistic characters to comedies such as Superbad and American Pie, with many of its themes of rebellion and positive new experiences paying homage to the Richard Linklater cult classic Dazed and Confused. The three main characters are completely unrealistic. Their views on girls and even each other rings true with Superbad, yet the chemistry between them never reaches the peaks met by the Judd Apatow produced comedy. Costa, remarkably looking like a cross between Jonah Hill and Shia LeBeouf, never shuts up. His sexist attitude towards women pushes it over the edge, while never delivering a feeling of growth for his character throughout the course of events. Thomas and JB however are nondescript to a point of coming off as stupid for following through with every one of Costa’s outrageous plans.

While already outraging many and probably influencing others, The main star of Project X is the party. Even the most cynical part of you will be shocked by how far events go. Vulgar, cruel and hilarious all at the same time, the stuck up critic in everyone will be thrown away at the sight of a midget being shoved in an oven or a neighbour being tasered by a small security guard.

Verdict: An outrageous and stylistic party flick.