Director: Guillaume Canet
Starring: Clive Owen, Billy Crudup. Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, James Caan
Written by: Guillaume Canet, James Gray, (based on the film “Les liens du sang”) Jacques Maillot, Pierre Chosson, Eric Veniard (and the novel “Deux freres, un flic, un truand”) Bruno Papet and Michel Papet
Running Time: 127 mins
Release date: 15th August 2014
I went into Blood Ties with great interest. Being a lover of 70’s cinema, it would be intriguing if a 21st Century film could pull off the elements that make the 1970’s one of the best decades for movies. Unfortunately, it didn’t and what we get instead is a film that has parts that work and others that fail, to the point of boredom.
Chris has just been released from prison. His brother, Frank, is from the other side of the tracks, a cop and the pair could not be any different. Frank is hoping that Chris has changed his ways. He offers him his home, gets him a job and even tries to re-ignite the relationship with his former wife, Monica. With their father on the verge of dying, the boys have to try to live together but Chris cannot help but be drawn back into his life of crime, which puts Frank in a difficult position, while he has to deal with his own personal life, having a relationship with a man he has put in jail.
Guillaume Canet is a French actor who has made the transition into directing with plenty of flair. His previous films, the excellent thriller Tell No One and the family drama Little White Lies, both were received well, so this, his first American movie, based on a French film, Rivals, which Canet starred, comes from a prestigious background.
However, the film faces several problems, none more so than pacing. It takes its time, hoping to build upon the tense situation between the brothers but while being a slow-burner, it actually becomes increasingly duller. The set pieces brings the film to life, which, when they come, are both violent and exciting but then it returns to the snail’s pace as we watch the characters drive the story along.
Everything is in place. A good sense of period, from the costumes to the soundtrack and there are moments you could be mistaken you were watching a Sidney Lumet or even The French Connection. Alas it is neither and it feels like it doesn’t quite understand that downbeat doesn’t always mean slow. Even the ending, which tries to be like a 70’s thriller, doesn’t have the guts to go all the way.
The performances are fine, although the female leads are given little to do. Mila Kunis, as Chris’s new flame, looks the part but is given nothing to do but flash her doe-like eyes. Zoe Saldana, as Frank’s love interest, Vanessa, tries in inject some life into her character, leaving Marion Cotillard as Chris’s ex, Monica, to win the attention of all the females, as a prostitute with problems galore.
Lead males Clive Owen and Billy Crudup, however, are superb as the brothers. Owen, with Bronx accent this side of East London, gets to chew away at his character, bringing an air of the cool with a hint of psychotic violence bubbling underneath. The underrated Crudup, as Frank, has a tougher time playing a man who knows he should be loyal to his family and yet works to serve and protect. Both work well together and just manage to keep the film above water.
The trouble is, this is very familiar grounds we are on. The brothers from different worlds, so the outcome will always be the same, so the level of tension never reaches the high stakes. The outcome is almost telegraphed home at the beginning of the film. It’s perfectly fine to produce a bleak, downbeat tale and it makes a change from the usual fare we have become use to but with some trimming in the editing room and a tighter pace, this could have been great. Instead, it’s loses the attention way before the end and will be forgotten in a week or so.