Blood Father (2016)When we first meet John Link, Mel Gibson’s grizzled ex-con anti-hero in his latest thriller Blood Father, he’s in the midst of an impassioned soliloquy at an AA meeting. A self-proclaimed “real success story,” Link is a recovering alky two years out of the slammer, whose wife left him and whose daughter is in the wind, leaving him with no one in his corner and with no one to blame but himself. It’s a fitting noir-esque introduction to Link, but also—perhaps more appropriately, especially as he’s talking straight at the camera when he says it—it seems to be coming from Gibson himself.Directed by Jean-François Richet, who helmed 2008’s gripping gangster diptych Mesrine, Blood Father seems at first glance to be another addition to the tried-and-true Gibson formula: a brutal guy on the wrong side of the tracks takes on those who wronged him, often in typically gruesome fashion. Certainly, John Link could be blood brothers with Porter and Driver, Gibson’s violent protagonists from Payback and Get the Gringo. Living on the fringe of society while scratching out a living as a tattoo artist from his grungy desert trailer, Link is as blunt and terse as his monosyllabic name would suggest. The difference is that Blood Father feels like Gibson confronting the demons that put him and his career on the skids over the last decade. His performance feels like penance, and not in a negative way. Gibson’s mainstay has always been passion—in both definitions of the word—and here he bares himself to the bone.