MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
Clive Owen as CHRIS
Billy Crudup as FRANK
Marion Cotillard as MONICA
Mila Kunis as NATALIE
Zoe Saldana as VANESSA
Directed by: Guillaume Canet
BY KEVIN CARR
Gritty cop dramas – and particularly gritty cop dramas set in the 1970s – can be a lot of fun. There’s a rich history to that decade and a strong look that filmmakers can achieve. Throw in a great cast that includes Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana and James Caan, and you have the recipe for a great movie.
Unfortunately, things never quite gel for “Blood Ties.” There’s a murkiness to the plot and a randomness of character actions that bog the movie down and never let it build up any charge.
“Blood Ties” tells the story of a career criminal named Chris (Owen) who is released and hopes to start a life without crime. His brother Frank (Crudup) is a New York police detective hoping to make a name for himself but finding his reputation being soiled by his family. Chris struggles to go straight, but various pressures in his life – including a beautiful but emotionally disturbed and drug-addicted ex-wife (Cotillard) and an inability to not lash out – drag him back into the criminal underworld.
Neither the cast nor the acting are the problems with this movie. Everyone holds their own, even lesser actors like Mila Kunis (though her romance with Clive Owen’s character is a bit too creepy for my blood). I’ve never been a huge fan of Owen, but he makes the role his own and doesn’t chew the scenery with too much cheese. There’s always a danger of cheese with Clive Owen, even in his most serious roles. Fortunately, “Blood Ties” keeps the cheese level pretty low.
Similarly, Cotillard has a lot to do with her character. Unfortunately, it seems misdirected at times and a bit of a mess. Saldana faces the same problem, giving her a romance with Crudup’s character while her baby daddy is in prison, but this relationship never gels. In fact, the women in this movie really get the short shrift because they are given painfully secondary roles that only set certain things in motion but never make them part of the overall story.
“Blood Ties” is a remake of a French film, which is in turn an adaptation of a French novel. Having not seen the original film nor read the original book, I can’t compare them or even render an opinion about the quality of either work. However, I can say that this final product feels like an over-adapted novel.
There’s a lot of things happening in the story, with lots of subplots and character ties. I’ve seen movies adapted from novels that failed to sort through the noise of a complex book, and this is exactly what “Blood Ties” comes across as to me. The reality is that a book and a movie are very different creatures, and it takes a strong writer to adapt one to the other. It’s not a simple transcription. There’s a lot of decisions on what to keep, what to include and what to change for the sake of audience understanding. From a very ignorant position of someone who has only seen the final American film, I can say that this movie feels like it never got sorted through to the final version as well as it should have been.
The Blu-ray comes with Digital HD UltraViolet capabilities, making it available on your portable devices. The only bonus feature is a long-form “Behind the Scenes” featurette that runs a decent length but features various interviews with the cast and crew.