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dir Jean-Francois Richet
scr Peter Craig, Andrea Berloff
prd Chris Briggs, Pascal Caucheteux, Peter Craig, Sebastien Lemercier
with Mel Gibson, Erin Moriarty, William H Macy, Diego Luna, Michael Parks, Dale Dickey, Miguel Sandoval, Thomas Mann, Richard Cabral, Daniel Moncada, Ryan Dorsey, Raoul Trujillo
release US 26.Aug.16, UK 7.Oct.16
16/US Icon 1h28
Don't mess with my daughter: Gibson and Moriarty
CANNES FILM FEST
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While the filmmaking is a bit on-the-nose, missing the subtlety of an intriguing story, the cast and the vivid settings are strong enough to hold the audience's interest. On the surface, this may be a violent chase across the Mojave, but the more interesting layer is the offbeat father-daughter drama.
Ex-con tattoo artist Link (Gibson) lives in an isolated California desert community near his 12-step sponsor Kirby (Macy). One night Link's sleepy life is jolted by a call from his 17-year-old daughter Lydia (Moriarty), who went missing when she was 13. Lydia is terrified that the henchmen of her late gangster boyfriend Jonah (Luna) are coming for her, and Link quickly learns that she's not imagining the threat. So he gets help from old friends in prison (Sandoval) and out (Parks and Dickey). But the violence escalates, and they're running out of people to trust.
French filmmaker Richet seems far more interested in the script's action beats than the more emotional drama. But the brutal pursuit thriller is too cliched to properly engage with, peppered with the usual stereotypes, including seemingly supernatural villains and encounters that instantly turn grisly. It's so relentless that it's actually a bit boring, mainly because we wish Link and Lydia could just have a moment to chat and catch up on what's happened over the past four years.
Gibson is terrific as the grizzled but bright-eyed man who has tried to clean up his act but would abandon everything for his long-lost little girl. And Moriarty is a smart, feisty chip off the old block, which makes her formulaic final act abduction that much more annoying. Together they have a terrific familial spark that gives the film a spring in its step. And the colourful supporting cast add texture here and there.
But the movie itself seems compromised by its desire to be a gritty action thriller. This means that the much more involving dramatic elements are lost in the shuffle, while the bigger themes about tenacity, addiction and family ties never get a chance to develop. That said, the movie is consistently entertaining, charging along at a brisk pace through a series of well-staged set-pieces. Because it's never glamorised, the violence feels desperate and nasty, and the bleak settings, while somewhat exaggerated, offer an unexpected insight into characters who may seem all dried up but prove that there's some life left in them.
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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