Friday 27 April 2018

Action man Gibson is back, and pumped up

Mel Gibson in Blood Father
Mel Gibson in Blood Father

Paul Whitington

Mel Gibson makes an unexpected return to the action genre in Blood Father, a brutal, brisk and very watchable thriller. Ex-con John Link lives in a desert trailer park and is plagued by many demons, chief among them the unexplained disappearance of his teenage daughter four years previously. When Lydia (Erin Moriarty) turns up suddenly, it initially seems like a good thing, until John discovers she's a meth addict and is on the run from Mexican gangsters.

They come looking for her, but John proves a most resourceful adversary. Ferociously pumped up and sporting a white beard and crazy hair, Mel is very good as a character who suffers eloquently. There are moments of wild-eyed over-acting, as we've come to expect of old Mel down the years, but they don't seem out of place in a film that seems to have its tongue firmly in its cheek.

In his previous films, John Michael McDonagh has offset undercurrents of unpleasantness with lots of comedy and moments of pathos. 'The Guard' was alright, 'Calvary' pretty good, though one always struggled to recognise the hyperbolic Ireland in which they were set. But in War on Everyone, McDonagh has followed his brother Martin to America to paint his dramas on a broader canvas.

Like Martin McDonagh's 'Seven Psychopaths', War on Everyone is a pastiche crime drama, a smart-ass assault on the tropes of Hollywood thrillers. Michael Pena and Alexander Skarsgaard play Bob and Terry, two hopelessly venal New Mexican police detectives who go to war with a highly unconvincing British villain. One thinks of Abel Ferrara's 'Bad Lieutenant', but only in passing, because War on Everyone is glib and overwritten. At times it seems like bad Tarantino, but mostly it just seems bad.

I admire the simplicity and directness of Jake Paltrow and Noah Baumbach's documentary De Palma. It tells the story of 1970s wunderkind Brian De Palma, but allows the director to do it himself. Messrs Baumbach and Paltrow merely point the camera at De Palma and shoot, leaving him to talk us through his Hollywood adventures. It turns out he's a very entertaining host.

He's very honest about his influences, and Hitchcock is top of that list. It was an early viewing of 'Vertigo' that inspired him to pursue a career in cinema, and De Palma would cement his reputation making psychological thrillers with an erotic subtext. He was one of a group of ambitious young directors who were given their head in Hollywood in the 1970s, and De Palma was as much a visual purist in his way as his friends Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.

He's very eloquent on the difficulties of making the films you want in an industry where money and marketing are constant obstructions. But he managed to make some good ones, like 'Carrie', 'Carlito's Way' and 'Dressed to Kill', and is a film-maker of real talent.

Those of you who live in the capital will be familiar with the persona of 'Mattress Mick', a hirsute, bespectacled character who smiles wildly from posters advertising bargain bed upholstery. Colm Quinn's earthy and moving new documentary Mattress Men tells the story of the likeable businessman behind the character, Michael Flynn, and the colleague who helped create him.

During the economic downturn, Mr Flynn almost lost his business. With the help of a colleague called Paul Kelly, he came up with the notion of Mattress Mick, and Mr Kelly created a series of shambolic but intentionally comic YouTube ads inspired by rap videos. They worked, becoming viral hits, but Paul feels unappreciated, and has a family to feed. Colm Quinn's film movingly explores the tension between the mutually toxic forces of business and friendship.


Blood Father

(15A, 88mins)

Rating: 3/5

War on Everyone

(16, 98mins)

Rating: 1/5

De Palma

(No Cert, Light House, 107mins)

Rating: 4/5

Mattress Men

(15A, 84mins)

Rating: 3/5

Irish Independent

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