The Lethal Weapon star never really went away, although after some well-publicized personal issues, he lowered his profile and studios distanced themselves, at least temporarily. Between a domestic issue, bitter custody fight, drunk driving arrest and an ugly anti-sematic rant, Gibson had a difficult several years. Those things would have buried most people, but in Hollywood, almost anything short of murder is eventually accepted. Personally, I believe he has some major character issues, but I am not here to judge him, only to explore how his film career seemed to rebound.
Gibson appeared as the lead in 2010’s Edge of Darkness, a dark and violent crime thriller, perfect for a now world-worn Martin Riggs/Mad Max. While Gibson garnered good reviews, especially with his more weathered appearance, the film lost money. In 2011, Jodie Foster asked him to play the lead in her directed film The Beaver, about a depressed, middle aged man, who uses a hand puppet to communicate with others. No one came to see it. Even though these two films lost money, the ice was broken for Gibson’s return.
Edge of Darkness put Gibson on familiar ground. He was intense and fearless as he sought the killer of his daughter. Is this film different than other revenge films? Not really, other than is was made by very skilled hands with a lot of money to work with. Even though the film did not make money, it is the type of viewing that will have a second life through streaming.
Gibson would take a lead in Get the Gringo (2012), a film produced by his company and which he co-wrote. If you’ve seen Payback, you get an idea of the character he plays. Resourceful and quick-thinking, his character is only a half-step ahead of other inmates in this corrupt Mexican prison. The gray hair is gone and he is physically fit for the physicality in the role. Edge of Darkness and Get the Gringo are the kinds of films Gibson excelled. Get the Gringo creates a world of commerce, justice and social order with the prison. The film has a quirkiness that makes it more than what it appears.
Next up was a small, supporting roles in Machete Kills (2013) as the villain. These Robert Rodriguez films are faux exploitation films, over the top with violence and exaggerated characters, easy work and probably fun to play. Gibson is not the star of this film, his part is small, but crucial.
The Expendables 3 (2014). Stallone’s series makes money and he rotates in guest stars like Gibson for a few minutes of screen time. It’s over the top and scene chewing, but as long as they are profitable and Stallone doesn’t need a walker, expect more. Like Machete Kills, his roll in The Expendables 3 is small, but flashy. These two roles give him exposure, do not call for you to be sympathetic towards his characters, and may have connected him with key action fans. That is my take. Gibson likely has a team of advisors working to repair his image and find the right opportunities.
Blood Father (2016) Ex-con, recovering alcoholic and tattoo artist Gibson finds his runaway daughter who brings serious trouble with her. They are both on the run from the police and the Mexican cartel. This is the kind of film Gibson feels at home. He’s on the run, not many options, trying to patch over fractured relationships, and fight when his back is against the wall.
Hacksaw Ridge (2016) Gibson co-produced and directed, but did not appear in this film. The story is about a conscientious objector who was awarded the Medal of Honor in World War II as a combat medic. The film was nominated for a slew of awards and turned a profit. Gibson’s direction was praised and he was recognized with an Oscar nomination.
Daddy’s Home 2 (2016) Gibson is Mark Walhberg’s father in this sequel. Gibson plays a character like the spittin’ image of his own image. Maybe he is having a laugh or hoping audiences will laugh. This might have been funny if it were not so close to his real rap sheet. Yikes.
Stonehearst Asylum (2017) Producer only. His company produced the film.
Dragged Across Concrete (2018) was a big surprise. The film did not do much when it was released, but it gives Gibson his best role in over a decade. He and Vince Vaughn play police detective partners who get suspended when a video shows them being overly violent to a suspect. Not as comical as his Lethal Weapon character, but very sarcastic and cynical, as he and his partner resort to becoming criminals to dig them out of a financial hole. Nearing the end of a disappointing career and mounting family needs, you feel his distress and willingness to step far over the line. The scenes with Gibson and Vaughn are great; it is a more serious and fateful version of Riggs and Murtaugh, with Gibson taking the older, more uptight role. This film has some creepy parts, but I recommend it.
The Professor and the Madman (2019) – A rather odd film, two different men following unique paths. One, a self-learned man working on a dictionary of the English language. The other, a military officer and doctor, sentenced to prison. Mel Gibson and Sean Penn do some heavy acting, that’s for sure. Gibson has the chops, that’s for sure, but this film is slow and stiff. I rarely give up on a film, but I did in this case.
Force of Nature (2020) Gibson plays a retired cop, in poor health, who refuses to leave his apartment when a hurricane is about to hit. This is an ensemble film with Gibson playing a surly old man who must aid two police officers in defending the apartment building from a gang intent on retrieving something from a safe in the basement during the storm. This is another wrinkle in the numerous cop roles at the end of a bitter, unfulfilled life. There is a buried rage in these characters that pulsates under the surface, waiting for a reason to erupt. This is tough, violent film (big surprise), it has an improbable story, but do not let that stop you.
Fatman (2020) Gibson is Kris Kringle. Yes, really. In this comedy, he is dependent on an American government subsidy to pay for his operation, and that includes taking on a job for his helpers to manufacture control boards for fighter jets. Also, a spoiled rich kid is unhappy that he got coal for Christmas and puts out a contract on Kringle. Gibson plays him as an older version of Martin Riggs, boozy, sarcastic and doesn’t take shit. He’s also married to a Black woman named Ruth. This is a very good film that I had never heard of. The problem is the amount of violence. This doesn’t have to be a kid’s film, but the amount of violence is unnecessary. Gibson turns in a grizzled and sardonic performance.
Boss Level (2021) I cannot review this film because I had not seen it. Gibson co-stars in this science fiction thriller.
On imdb.com Gibson is listed with at least nine projects with completed, in production or announced for the next couple of years. Included is a remake of The Wild Bunch, which he is supposed to be co-writing, producing and directing. This will either be a huge success or a big failure. Personally, I wish they would stay away from this film.
Gibson has plenty of wreckage that will follow him to the end. His film career will not change the failings of the man, but many will accept his films on the basis of what they are, entertainment. Ironically, some of his recent characters are very flawed and reflect lives that have seen better days. The grey, thinning hair, creases in his face and raspier voice are signs of age, let’s hope they are also signs of a wiser man.