Mel Gibson to Direct Mark Wahlberg in Lionsgate’s Actioner ‘Flight Risk’

Lionsgate has nabbed global distribution for “Flight Risk,” an action-thriller starring Mark Wahlberg and directed by Mel Gibson. This will mark the first film Gibson has directed since his blockbuster ($175 million on a $40 million budget) and Oscar-nominated “Hacksaw Ridge” in 2016. The mini-major will be launching the project, featuring Wahlberg as a pilot transporting a dangerous criminal for trial, at Cannes.

“We love the undeniable electric pairing of Mel Gibson and Mark Wahlberg,” Lionsgate Motion Picture Group chair Joe Drake said. “These world-class talents combining for this dynamic, character-driven film will make ‘Flight Risk’ one of the most suspense-filled, must-see events of the year.”

Wahlberg and Gibson have starred in a few projects together, including “Daddy’s Home 2” and last year’s faith-based “Father Stu.” Considering the number of high-concept or true-story action movies Wahlberg has made with director Peter Berg over the last decade (“Lone Survivor,” “Deepwater Horizon,” “Patriots Day,” “Mile 22” and Netflix’s “Spenser Confidential”), it is a mild surprise that Gibson will be in charge.

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Gibson has remained busy since his infamous drunk driving arrest in late 2006, during which he spouted off anti-Semitic insults and related conspiracy theories. However, save for Martin Campbell’s “Edge of Darkness” in 2010 and Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver” in 2011, most of his work — at least since the early 2010s — has been in the realm of direct-to-consumer (DVD, VOD and streaming) grindhouse actioners.

Varying quality notwithstanding, the likes of “Get the Gringo,” “Blood Father,” “Dragged Across Concrete” or “Last Looks” are not exactly on par with headlining big-budget A-level Hollywood blockbusters, even if many of them were inward-facing meta-critical character studies rooted in Gibson’s offscreen persona. Nor is being cast as a villain mostly for a punchline in the likes of “Daddy’s Home 2” (which did use the actor’s reputation to build a kind of Chabrol-worthy slow-build menace) “Expendables 3,” “Machete Kills” or “Boss Level.”

The one recent exception was Liongate’s “Hacksaw Ridge” in 2016, in which he directed Andrew Garfield, as a pacificist trying to serve in World War II as a battlefield medic, to critical acclaim, strong box office ($181 million on a $40 million budget) and several Oscar nominations. Many of the action/thriller flicks were released direct-to-consumer courtesy of Lionsgate. He has a key supporting role in Lionsgate’s three-part television movie event “The Continental,” which is a prequel to the ongoing “John Wick” series.

Gibson and Lionsgate have been in a mutually beneficial artistic relationship for a while. The big difference is that “Flight Risk” has another A-level star and may end up being a conventional global theatrical release.

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