Blood Father (Blu-ray) (2016)

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Released 11-Jan-2017

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller/Action None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2016
Running Time 87:52
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jean-FranÁois Richet
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Mel Gibson
Erin Moriarty
Diego Luna
Michael Parks
William H. Macy
Miguel Sandoval
Dale Dickey
Richard Cabral
Raoul Max Trujillo
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $24.95 Music Sven Faulconer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

††† Mel Gibsonís first star vehicle since the insanely underrated Get the Gringo all the way back in 2012, Blood Father is far more than just another subpar straight-to-video action flick. Adapted from the novel of the same name by Peter Craig (who co-wrote the screenplay with Andrea Berloff), this is a hard-edged thriller more concerned with characters than action, finding a solid emotional core which elevates the material far above more disposable B-grade trash starring the likes of Steven Seagal. Itís a shame that some will most likely either underrate or simply ignore Blood Father on account of Gibsonís presence, as such punters will be missing out on one hell of a gratifying movie, one of 2016ís best. Itís certainly better than most other aging-star action flicks like The Gunman, 3 Days to Kill and the Taken trilogy.

††† Out of prison on parole, John Link (Gibson) maintains a tattoo business out of his dingy trailer in remote California as he works through his addictions in a twelve-step program, supported by sponsor Kirby (William H. Macy). Out of the blue, Linkís 17-year-old runaway daughter Lydia (Erin Moriarty) contacts him for help after she shoots her drug-dealing boyfriend Jonah (Diego Luna) during a botched armed heist. Lydia is desperate for money to allow her to disappear, but Link demands that she stay with him at least for a little while, as he hopes to reconnect with his estranged child and eliminate her drug habit. Before long, the Mexican drug cartels catch up with Lydia, but Link is not about to give his daughter over to them. Breaking parole, Link goes on the run with his child, determined to protect Lydia at any cost as armed thugs relentlessly pursue them.

††† The father-daughter dynamic between Link and his daughter is unexpectedly respectful and free of hoary genre clichťs. Lydia does not hate her father even despite his criminal history, and the film refuses to adopt the predictable ďyou sucked as a fatherĒ trope thatís been done to death, which is certainly refreshing. Lydia is also wholly aware of the trouble that sheís bringing to the broken, desperate Link, and she only wants to leave as soon as possible to avoid dragging him into the whole affair. However, Link is willing to take a bullet for Lydia, finding a renewed will to live when his daughter re-enters his life. Blood Father finds time for intimate character moments throughout, infusing Link and Lydiaís relationship with an unexpected authenticity. If thereís an issue with the movie, itís that some scenes are edited too quickly, which is most noticeably felt as the movie approaches the finish line, slightly hampering some of the more tender moments. Blood Father needed more room to breathe, and an extended edition would be enticing, especially since excised material reportedly exists (scenes featuring Lydiaís mother were excised from the final cut). But this isnít nearly enough to undo the strengths of Blood Father, of which there are countless.

††† Even though it was shot in 2014 and spent over two years waiting to be released, Blood Father does not exhibit the recognisable hallmarks of a troubled post-production. On the contrary, itís astonishingly competent, thanks in large part to French director Jean-FranÁois Richet, here making his first English-language feature since the surprisingly decent 2005 remake of Assault on Precinct 13. Richet infuses Blood Father with his European sensibilities, elevating it above more standard-order American action films, making the most of the reported $15 million budget. Shot on location in New Mexico, the desert vistas are consistently stunning, while the action scenes are of a uniformly high quality. The shootouts are more realistic than the likes of Taken or John Wick, with an aesthetic closer to something like Sicario. The action sequences are loud, raw and edge-of-your-seat intense, once again showing that Gibson still has the moves for these sorts of productions. Best of all, the mayhem is smooth and easy to follow, without any shaky-cam or rapid-fire cutting. The blood is all gloriously practical, too, with squibs as opposed to phoney digital bloodshed, in keeping with the tangible aesthetic. (It appears there are also some references to Mad Max 2, which is a nice touch.)

††† Remarkably, Richet manages to create two fully three-dimensional characters who are easy to latch onto and empathise with, and the movie is further bolstered by fine performances across the board. This is one of the best roles for Gibson at this point in his career. He looks insanely ripped and rugged, and you can certainly believe him to be a legitimate threat. He capably sells the drama and emotion during the quieter character moments, but heís equally compelling when chaos begins to reign down. John Link is boldly introduced at an AA meeting, during which he discusses the guilt he feels about past transgressions, as well as his desire to remain on the straight and narrow, and the material is remarkably poignant coming from Gibson. Itís been great to see Gibson play villainous roles in Machete Kills and The Expendables 3, but here he proves that heís still a captivating leading man whoís able to carry a film. Moriarty impresses as well, never coming across as grating or irritating. And in the supporting cast, Macy is reliably charismatic as Linkís best friends/sponsor, and his interactions with Gibson are just f***ing magical. Also making a positive impression is Luna, recently seen in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, while Michael Parks almost steals the show as neo-Nazi psychopath who was once Linkís mentor. Itís a small but effective cast, and there isnít a single dud performance in sight.

††† Blood Father plays out like a contemporary western which substitutes horses with motorcycles, and cowboys with bikers/thugs. Perhaps the movieís greatest achievement is the fact that it manages to deliver ample character beats to add a genuine touch of humanity without skimping on the fierce action sequences, and all within a taut 85-minute running time. The very antithesis of both Hollywood blockbusters and B-grade action movies, this feels like the type of movie we used to see in the í80s and í90s, but with a coat of contemporary polish. In a way, Blood Father also feels like a fitting swansong to Gibsonís career as an action star. Itís a real keeper, folks.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† Icon brings Blood Father to Blu-ray with this AVC-encoded, 1080p high definition transfer that scrubs up extraordinarily well. I was lucky enough to view the movie during its brief cinema release, and this disc represents a faithful, top-notch representation of the theatrical experience, though the lack of a 4K Blu-ray is disappointing. No information is presently available about which camera systems were used, but it appears that Blood Father was shot digitally, given the clarity of the image and the lack of grain. Even though the back cover advertises a dual-layered BD-50, this is in fact a single-layer BD-25, with the disc size sitting at under 23GB. Nevertheless, since there are no special features (apart from previews), the movie has the whole disc to itself, allowing for a healthy bitrate.

††† From the very beginning, the transfer is a knockout. See, for instance, the initial close-up of Gibson at his AA meeting - the level of detail visible on his face is astonishing, and every hair on his beard is easily discernible. The texturing never falters throughout the movie, no matter the lighting conditions. Even the quality of the long shots is sensational, at no point looking too smooth or smeary. Some very light source-related noise does creep in at times, but 99.99% of viewers wonít notice it (much less be bothered by it), and this is not a flaw of the Blu-ray encode since it appears to be source-related and its removal would take away some of the fine detail.

††† Even though this is a relatively small-scale movie, Blood Father was nevertheless made for the cinema and big-screen televisions. Shot on location in New Mexico, the picture is packed with gorgeous desert vistas, and thankfully the encode capably handles all the scenery. Sharpness and object delineation are above-average - you can count every blade of grass during the climax - and colours remain bold and vibrant, maintaining an impressive sense of depth. Blood Father carries a warm colour palette favouring oranges and reds, as befitting of a motion picture set in the desert, and the transfer replicates what I recall witnessing in the cinema.

††† Some shots do lack refinement - it would appear that an action camera like a GoPro was used for a couple of shots when a truck slams into a motorcycle - and the black levels arenít always quite as deep as perhaps they could be, but on the whole, there is very little to complain about. At no point did I detect anything in the way of banding, aliasing, ringing, or any other encoding anomalies. I also own the Region A-locked Lionsgate release, and actually found the local release to look a tad stronger from a visual perspective. It appears Iconís encode is superior.

††† As stated previously, I would have preferred a 4K Blu-ray release, as I feel that the expanded colour palette afforded by Ultra HD and High Dynamic Range could have given the movie additional visual pop. But make no mistake, this is a genuinely excellent transfer, representing the best that I could hope the movie to look in regular old 1080p. Played on my 65Ē LG UHD television upscaled through the Samsung 4K Blu-ray player, Blood Father looks very, very good. Iím not even sure I would double dip if there was a 4K release further down the track.


Video Ratings Summary
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Audio

††† Worryingly, the back cover of the Blu-ray case only lists a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, which would imply a lossy audio presentation, but thatís inaccurate. Thankfully, Icon have endowed this gripping action-thriller with an above-average DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix which, again, sounds faithful to the audio track which played in the cinema. Outside of the more action-packed moments, this is a fairly low-key mix, though environmental ambience is present during outdoor moments. There are no issues with clarity or dropouts.

††† If thereís anything to nitpick, itís that dialogue in the quieter scenes is mixed lower than the aggressive action beats. It sounds like the actors are mumbling at times. I found myself needing to adjust the volume on a number of occasions whilst viewing the movie. Still, the high volume of the gunshots does accentuate their impact - just make sure you donít watch this one late at night when you have the risk of waking people up. This one isnít demo material, but itís perfectly sufficient for this particular motion picture.

Audio Ratings Summary
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Extras

††† Most unfortunately, there are no extras to speak of.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † The Region A release from Lionsgate contains the following special feature which is not available on Icon's Blu-ray:

††† Even though the local release features slightly improved picture quality, I'm giving the win to the Lionsgate release on the basis of the thirty-minute behind-the-scenes documentary which is actually quite good.

Summary

††† Blood Father is insanely underrated and overlooked, but it wound up becoming one of my favourite motion pictures of 2016. The drama is touching, while the action beats are sharp and brutal. Add in Gibson's performance and an astute script, and there's very little to complain about.

††† Icon's Blu-ray is mostly good news. The technical presentation is enormously impressive, with one of the best video transfers in recent memory, though the complete lack of extras is disappointing. Still, this one comes recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Friday, March 17, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSamsung UBD-K8500 4K HDR Blu-Ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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