Tuesday, 25 March 2014


Guillaume Canet's Blood Ties is so consumed by its period recreation, by its drab '70s aesthetic and funky soundtrack, that it fails to convey a sense of urgency in its plot, which is about as old as the film's inspirations. And that's the point, since this is no update of the crime dramas of that era, but a contemporary addition to their ranks. Yet in having to consciously depict a bygone time, Blood Ties expends all of its energy elsewhere, and the story thus seems stale, both on the page and in the telling. You do need a fresh perspective on the timeworn tale of two brothers, one in the police department and the other a professional criminal, if you want said tale to be of interest to anyone not in such a situation themselves, and Canet and James Gray's screenplay doesn't offer one. Indeed, it quite purposefully doesn't offer one, since their obsession with remaining faithful to the core qualities of the genre is unrelenting. Affording some attention to their large, starry (and international) cast does help to alleviate some of the boredom of watching the fraught relationship between siblings Billy Crudup and Clive Owen undergo its many trials, though Canet and Gray are content to strand these extraneous characters when needs be that Crudup and Owen's storyline requires more perfunctory development. It is therefore up to the actors to spark some interest in the audience, and liven up this rather dreary drama. They succeed in the former, to an extent, but not in the latter. Kudos to Matthias Schoenaerts for delivering a vivid performance with limited screentime, and for mastering the New York accent better than Brit Clive Owen (as a first-language English-speaker, he ought to be ashamed of that) and than Marion Cotillard, who is otherwise as reliable as ever in her intense characterisation of an embittered hooker. Production values are admirably non-flashy (this is how you design the '70s, David O. Russell!), though soundtrack choices are brutally obvious.