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USA 2013
Directed by
Guillaume Canet
124 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Blood Ties

Guillame Canet's Blood Ties is a remake of a 2008 French film Les Liens Du Sang in which he co-starred. The story is now transposed to early 70s New York and concerns the troubled relationship between bothers Chris (Clive Owen) and Frank (Billy Crudup), the former a tough guy with an extensive track record of criminal activity, the latter a NYPD cop with a promising career.  For a director working in a country and with a language to which he is not native Blood Ties is a highly impressive film although no doubt the fact that James Gray, whose We Own The Night (2007) is thematically very similar, co-wrote the script with Canet has something to do with it.

Whatever Gray contributed, Blood Ties is a fine example of the cross-bred working class family drama-cum-crime movie with an intense dynamic between the Owen and Crudup, well-staged action scenes and a high level of craftsmanship. Apparently Canet cut 20 minutes from the film after its negative reception at Cannes and this perhaps explains why the film falters after the climactic security van robbery only to re-start after some ill-defined period of time, a relatively small problem but one which does break the mood.

Setting this aside, Blood Ties is a deftly-composed film that has a rich narrative depth despite covering only approximately a year of story time and a spot-on production design that no doubt owes much to William Friedkin’s 1970s classic The French Connection

Clive Owen’s tight-wound turn as the alternately charming and violently anti-social Chris and Billy Crudup’s counterpoint performance as his thoughtful younger brother form the bulk of the film’s emotional content with James Caan as their crusty old dad and Marion Cotillard as Chris’s junkie wife, Monica, providing useful support. As the girlfriends, Mila Kunis and Zoe Saldana are not much more than appendages whilst Lili Taylor has little to do as the lads’ sister. The extensive use of classic pop music is somewhat uneven. Sometimes, as when Tommy Shondell’s “Crimson and Clover” sets the mood for Chris and Natalie's first night it works, sometimes as when Lou Reed’s “Heroin” underscores Monica’s relapse into using, it does not.

Despite its shortcomings Blood Ties is a substantial contribution to the crime genre, investing the usual tropes with heart. Hopefully one day we’ll see a restored 144m director’s cut. 

DVD Extras: Behind The Scenes featurette, Theatrical trailer.

Available from: Madman




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