Ex Governmental Operative Jack Davis is being manipulated in a life and death struggle by warring factions within the covert arms of the Homeland Security Agency in a fight for congressional funding. When his brother is kidnapped while working for a foreign embassy, Jack pulls out all stops in a race to save his brother that takes him from the desolate mountains of Virginia to Miami, Washington DC, and then into the exotic lands of Thailand and Cambodia. Written by
Independent films, being already at the disadvantage of lacking a studio subsidized budget and pool of resources, are dealt a harsher blow by the criticism given by an audience when the finished piece is compared against the slick, polished Hollywood product. But why do we want it slick and polished? Do we really want the story all neat-n-tidy, pre-digested for us? Don't we prefer those creative and visually stunning pieces that engage us in a new paradigm?
Enter: Blood Ties by William Kely McClung, an independent feature film that requires the viewer's attention and imaginative involvement but pays it back many times over with depth of character, unanticipated FX, and bone-jarring action.
While rattling the audience along at desperate, heart-punishing pace, Blood Ties requires the audience to think, without making them hate doing it. This isn't tweed-and-pipe professor analytical thinking, but the looking over your shoulder for the hidden guns in the shadows, the click on your phone line really being the snapping of pieces fitting together kind of thinking. It is an international chess match with tragic human casualties and spectacular martial arts action sequences.
An action film at heart, Blood Ties delivers fight scenes laden with an astonishing mixture of martial art, wrestling, and street fighting styles. But the real genius of the film is the director's balance of truly exquisite filming in the Virginia mountains, National Mall in D.C., and the jungles of Cambodia and Thailand with these explosions of brutality. The nuances and innuendos in the story carry enough to fill a trilogy, but never come across as overwhelming, thanks to the truly top-notch editing and brilliance of visual storytelling.
With a tag line: "Fight for your country. Fight for your family. Fight for your life.", one could expect the film to be lacking of sensitivities and character development. A word of advice: Don't. Blood Ties brings it. Jim's defiance and indomitable spirit while getting the crap beat out of him speak to a strength far deeper than that of any other character. He is no one's victim. Jack's intensity and resolve are given penetration and weight when cut against his humor and softness while discussing disturbing culinary choices with Sarin. A warrior with a human side; who knew? And the sadistic and awkwardly comical Markus/Erik combination is both frightening and leveling, showing the animal in the man.
While the film does have some slight sound issues, the strength of the acting (even in the nonverbal) and the eclectic, evocative score give the film a quiet artistry and subtle power. The desperation and palpable urgency of the film are played out across 90+ minutes of conspiracy, hidden strands of interconnectedness, and heavy consequences. Watching it once is not enough.
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