Mel Gibson proves in “Blood Father” he can still command the screen — something he hasn’t done much in recent years.

First off, the actor, in his first starring role in a film theatrically released in the United States since 2011’s “The Beaver,” is entertaining to watch, convincing in his role as an ex-con struggling to stay sober and do right by his estranged daughter, and gently funny, even when he makes a quick biblical reference.

As in “The Beaver,” Gibson’s character, Link, has a drinking problem. Link’s struggles to do his best by his family and overcome his own issues are a perfect match to Gibson’s gifts, a rugged exterior and quick, sensitive eyes.

The movie is pretty good.

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Mel Gibson is revved up to return to the big screen with "Blood Father."

Mel Gibson is revved up to return to the big screen with “Blood Father.”

Link’s 17-year-old daughter Lydia gets in trouble with bad dudes and she turns to her father, who wishes he’d done better during her childhood, for help escaping them. There’s an “Easy Rider” meets “Mad Max” pleasure in the simple plot as Gibson gets to ride astride a big hog shooting at zooming goons along a stark desert canyon road.

Secondly, let’s take a quick moment to discuss movie stardom. A friend of mine who is a big time producer once spent a night drinking red wine with Brad Pitt and told me afterward, “Some people are just born to be movie stars.” Brad is magnetic and dramatic. The music plays around him.

In “Blood Father,” audiences can behold the full range of performers who find their way to the big screen. Gibson, love him, hate him, editorialize about him, or boycott him, has the gift. Michael Parks, who plays an outlaw named Preacher, shows how a worthy actor who will never be as famous a star as Gibson, can brilliantly grab onto the heart of the character he’s playing and exude a mind-expanding, searing menace.

Gibson attends the "Blood Father" premiere during the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Gibson attends the “Blood Father” premiere during the Cannes Film Festival in May.

(Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Erin Moriarty as Lydia is, unfortunately, what Hollywood often does when casting a damsel in distress. They look for a young, pretty face who isn’t a terrible performer. It could be that her acting chops simply pale in comparison to the titans around her, but pale they did.

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Finally, there’s William H. Macy. When he was born, I seriously doubt anyone thought, “there’s a movie star.” But now that he’s been on screen in everything for many years, the audience sees him and knows it can depend on him. He’s effortlessly good, not a gravitational force, but a moonbeam. Gibson, with all his many, perhaps unforgiveable, faults, is the sun.

Tags:
mel gibson
movie reviews
william h. macy

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