Mel Gibson stages a comeback in this thriller about an ex-con trying to protect his teenage daughter after she’s targeted by a gang of murderous drug dealers.
Director: Jean-François Richet
Starring: Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, Diego Luna, William H. Macy, Michael Parks, Thomas Mann
Release date: October 7, 2016
Running time: 88 mins
If ever there was an actor in need of a comeback, it’s Mel Gibson.
His much publicised troubles, coupled with the ill-advised disaster that was 2011’s The Beaver had lead to a severe decline in the actor’s onscreen visibility, to the point where he’d made only a couple of stunt casting appearances (Machete Kills, The Expendables 3) and a low-budget thriller (2012’s How I Spent My Summer Vacation, which went direct-to-cable in the U.S.) in the last five years.
That makes his latest film essentially a comeback vehicle and boy, does it know it, with Gibson delivering his best performance in years.
Mel plays heavily bearded ex-con John Link, a recovering alcoholic and former Hell’s Angel who lives in the desert, making a living as a tattoo artist and hanging out with his sponsor / best friend Kirby (William H. Macey).
When his estranged teenage daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty) shows up at his door in distress, Link discovers that she’s been targeted by the Mexican drug cartel, who believe she stole something from her gangster boyfriend (Diego Luna).
With gaggles of gun-toting goons on their tail, the pair go on the run, and Link is forced to turn to an old Hell’s Angel crony (Michael Parks) for help.
The action scenes seem to say: ‘See? He’s still got it’
The filmmakers are fully aware of what an uphill task they face in rebooting Gibson’s career, and the script seemingly acknowledges that, opening on a world-weary-looking Gibson seeking to make amends and talking about his past mistakes in an AA meeting.
On a similar note, several of the exciting action sequences feel like deliberate echoes of Gibson’s past successes (a dash of Mad Max here, a spot of Lethal Weapon there), as if to say, ‘See? He’s still got it’.
Indeed, Gibson is on best-ever form here, sparking strong paternal chemistry with Moriarty (also excellent) and projecting a dogged determination that shows the fight hasn’t gone out of him yet, no matter how much life has beaten him down.
In addition, it’s great to see William H. Macey popping up in supporting roles again, even if he is regrettably under-used.
The story itself is enjoyable pulp, with director Jean-François Richet (Mesrine) maintaining a breakneck pace throughout its efficient 88 minute running time.
He also has a good handle on the grisly tone of the violence and clearly knows his way around an action scene, as demonstrated early on by the surprise attack on Link’s trailer.
This is an enjoyably pulpy action thriller that proves Mel Gibson is still a force to be reckoned with, providing audiences are willing to give him a chance.