Is there any hope for Mel Gibson? It was almost four years ago that a string of obscene voicemail messages obliterated the actor’s career and then salted the very earth it sprung from. But Gibson hasn’t given up. He’s actually done the opposite, making a new movie every year since 2010 — Edge of Darkness, The Beaver, Get the Gringo and Machete Kills, with The Expendables 3 due out this year.
Add another onto that list, because Gibson has just signed onto something called Blood Father. According to Deadline, the film has just put all its major pieces in place: Gibson will star, Jean-Francoise Richet (of Mesrine and 2005’s Assault on Precinct 13 remake) will direct and Peter Craig (The Town) will write the screenplay, based on his own novel. The story sounds just like every other “grizzled old man kills people for some reason” action movie these days: a teenage girl witnesses a murder and finds herself on the run from a motley assortment of thugs and drug dealers. Now, it’s up to her dear old estranged dad to rescue her from so much gun-toting nastiness.
I’m guessing it’s no coincidence that the film is also described as a “Taken-style action thriller.” Taken, as you may recall thanks to the 8 billion people who quoted it in 2008, is the film that re-success-ified Liam Neeson. Gibson may want a piece of the “grizzled old man kills people” pie that Neeson currently controls, and he may be angling himself to climb towards a Neeson-style career revival. It would explain why, for the first time ever in his career, he has started playing bad guys — both in last year’s Machete Kills and the upcoming Expendables 3. And it would also explain why his part in Blood Father, according to The Wrap, is a “former Hells Angel and ex-con who’s trying to stay sober while running a tattoo parlor from his trailer home.”
Like Mickey Rourke, who played a suspiciously Mickey Rourke-like character in The Wrestler (to enormous acclaim), playing a series of scummy-sounding characters could help Gibson overcome the poisonous cloud that’s still choking his public image to death. The Wrestler was Rourke’s (and the public’s) way of getting over all the weirdness in the actor’s past. A Mel Gibson that’s willing to say and do really, really terrible things on screen (potentially similar to his real life terrible things) might do the same.
But comparing Gibson to Mickey Rourke or Liam Neeson isn’t really accurate, because neither Rourke nor Neeson are known for many, many instances of alleged screamy racism. That puts Gibson into an entirely different comeback category, one filled with the likes of Charlie Sheen and Michael Richards. Dudes who spouted racial slurs and were recorded doing so. Dudes whose careers never really recovered (although Richards really wasn’t doing much post-Seinfeld). Dudes who are now relegated to the realm of jokey one-off appearances and showing up in aggressively awful sitcoms.
It’s this realm that Gibson will have to pull himself out of if he ever wants a taste of his old success again. And it’s a realm that seems increasingly likely to be his home forever. If Get the Gringo, a film released to terrific reviews, couldn’t get his career going (and it didn’t, instead being cordoned off into a VOD release and then mostly forgotten), then Blood Father probably can’t either. Maybe he can hitch a ride with Paula Deen, who’s supposed to be starting her comeback tour any minute now.