Apparently this movie is based on a novel of the same name and a French action thriller. I did not know this and I’m surprised. Surprised that’s its a French made movie because I certainly didn’t get that vibe in the trailers. And I’m surprised at yet another novel adaptation, like almost every other flick!
Again the plot is nothing really original (a rarity these days), its main hook is the fact we see old Mel Gibson back in action again. The plot starts with Lydia (Erin Moriarty) who is in a relationship with a gang leader called Jonah (Diego Luna). During a hit on some tenants Jonah claims stole money from them, Lydia accidentally shoots Jonah. Thinking she’s killed him she runs off and gets in contact with her ex-convict father John (Gibson). Lydia explains the situation and John decides to look after Lydia at his trailer house in the middle of nowhere (hoping no one will find them). Alas Jonah’s gang members come after Lydia and drag John into the fray. What follows is a somewhat slow moving chase thriller as John must protect Lydia from the gang out for revenge.
I think the problem with this movie is the fact it doesn’t really offer anything new (plus it literally feels like it could be another movie about old man Wolverine/Logan). Gibson’s character is your standard gruff, hardassed, tattooed, ex-con who’s turned his life around and deep down has a good heart. His slutty looking daughter Lydia is your typical slutty looking mouthy teen, who has gotten herself into shit and needs her daddy to bail her out. All the while being somewhat ungrateful about it along the way. The bad guys are your stereotypical tattooed Latino gangsters. And most of the folk we meet along the way are all scruffy looking redneck biker types, complete with some Nazi and Confederate imagery for good measure.
As the story unfolds its not hard to guess what’s gonna happen really. Obviously at first John and Lydia are a tad distant, Lydia doesn’t completely trust John, and John wants to ween Lydia off the drugs and alcohol she’s hooked on. It really is the all the usual beats. John must ask favours from various friends, some good like Kirby (William H. Macy) and some not so good like Preacher (Michael Parks). Speaking of stereotypical characters, Preacher has his own biker garage/club set up where he sells all his (Nazi and Confederate) war memorabilia. You know straight away not to trust this bloke. Anyway as time passes John and Lydia grow closer together until at the end Lydia realises how much she loves and needs John (naturally when its too late).
I guess the million Dollar question was, was the films main selling point of Mel Gibson being the anti-hero protagonist enough? Could Gibson still deliver a knockout? In my opinion the answer to that would yes and no. Lets not beat around the bush here, Gibson has clearly changed his image in recent years. He’s clearly been hitting the gym and getting roided up (health issues at his age?). Anyway performance-enhancing drugs aside, Gibson does look good despite the ravages of time on his looks. Strangely enough he actually looks even more badass in his old age and possibly even more of a better fit for an aged Wolverine.
Gibson definitely dishes out a solid weighty performance bursting with raw scary beardy-faced energy. In fact his beard is almost its own character, its an awesome beard, the white patch on his chin being the clear highlight. So much so that when he shaves it off his character noticeably becomes less interesting. All of a sudden we lose the unhinged, wide-eyed, muscular, Wolverine-esque, bearded one. And we’re left with a boring looking Mel Gibson from ‘Payback’ (1999). The thing is I believe you could swap out Gibson with any number of decent action thriller actors such as…Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe or Liam Neeson, and probably get the same result. So even though I liked Gibson in this movie, I’d say his presence wasn’t a make or break factor.
Overall I’d have to say I was actually somewhat disappointed with this movie. The trailer was pretty epic and kinda gave me the wrong impression really. I was expecting a more rock ’em, sock ’em action flick top heavy with kickassery. But what you get is a more heartfelt, slow paced drama with the odd burst of action that isn’t really that good. Yes its authentic, its not over the top and stupid, but I just got the impression we’d be seeing more of Gibson kicking ass. We actually see very little of Gibson kicking ass which seems a waste considering all that muscle he’s packed on.
In the end the movie finishes as you knew it would do, in fact I’m sure we’ve all seen the same ending before in other movies. I can’t help but think this could have been a really stonking gritty action flick, but Gibson wanted to show his acting chops (which aren’t quite there I’m afraid). Its by no means a bad film or a mediocre film, its a very solid film, just not as good as the posters and trailers make out.