Blood Father (DIR. Jean-François Richet)
Mel Gibson was once one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Now, he is staging a comeback which includes a few directorial efforts. Preceding those is his starring role in Jean-Francois Richet’s Blood Father, a film which could be cynically viewed as an attempt to get Gibson back on the public’s radar and nothing more, if only it was not so entertaining and memorable.
Blood Father – described by some as Gibson’s apology for his earlier comments about Jews, women, black people and Mexicans – sees Gibson as a recently sober ex-convict who suddenly regains contact with his estranged daughter who needs his help to get away from members of a drug cartel who want to avenge their dead leader – a man accidentally killed by her. There are so many sequences wherein Gibson looks into the camera and speaks about the evils in his past, whether it’s about alcoholism or racism, and there is a certain propagandistic tone to those sequences, but they are wrapped around bloody, exciting action sequences and genuinely touching moments between father and daughter that remind us why Gibson became famous in the first place. It seems difficult to believe, but the Toronto After Dark Film Festival has actually programmed a legitimate action film that often shows its true emotion, and doesn’t feel obligated to make compromises along the way. This is also, of course, aided by a stellar cast including Erin Moriarty’s star-making turn as the daughter Lydia and the likes of William H. Macy, Diego Luna and a particularly disgusting one-two punch of villainy in Michael Parks and Dale Dickey.
Of course, there does need to be a certain caution practiced, as it becomes obvious that there are some conflicting ideas at play in certain sequences. For example, one scene sees Lydia chastising her father for his racist attitude towards Mexicans, at direct odds with the fact that the villains are members of a Mexican cartel. If this is indeed Gibson’s apology, perhaps Blood Father should have been more careful to avoid public relations issues. Beyond such matters, Blood Father is an absolute thrill ride.
Kill Command (DIR. Steven Gomez)
A group of British armed forces are sent into an isolated area on a training mission. They are forced to work with a woman who shares certain characteristics with the monsters that end up gaining power over them – the training mission becomes a battle for survival. Does this sound familiar to you? If you thought that I was describing Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers, then you have just stumbled upon the biggest issue with Steven Gomez’s Kill Command; namely the total lack of narrative originality, taking many details from the 2002 film and practically replacing werewolves with robots.
A robotics company has created robots with artificial intelligence, creating machines that are smart enough to advance and teach each other. As these things often do, the outcomes go haywire, and the robots begin to take over their own fates – leading to an all-out slaughter of the humans.
This lack of originality would not be a problem, if the film was not also, somehow, unbelievably boring. There is no humanity to the robots (obviously), so any sense of connectivity seems to disappear right away. Add to that the fact that the humans act as a unit, with few of them getting any actual personality traits. Kill Command wants our eyes to bulge in excitement. Instead, viewers will feel their eyelids getting heavier.
One thing needs to be commended about Kill Command though: the whole thing seems to be an advert for the director’s thrifty and incredible visual effects. From the robots, to the ship that the humans travel in, to flying orbs which contain cameras – everything looks absolutely amazing. It’s unfortunate that such visuals could not be manifested in a better film.
For more information on the festival, visit the official TAD webpage here.
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