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New York, 1974. Fifty-year-old Chris (Clive Owen) has just been released on good behavior after several years in prison following a gangland murder. Reluctantly waiting for him outside the gates is his younger brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), a cop with a bright future. Chris and Frank have always been different, and their father, Leon (James Caan), who raised them alone, seems to favor Chris despite all his troubles. Yet blood ties are the ones that bind, and Frank, hoping that his brother has changed, is willing to give him a chance - he shares his home, finds him a job, and helps him reconnect with his children and his ex-wife, Monica (Marion Cotillard). But Chris' inevitable descent back into a life of crime proves to be the last in a long line of betrayals, and after his brother's latest transgressions, Frank banishes him from his life. But it's already too late, as the brothers' destiny is bound together, forever. Written by
The story opens in 1974 but the song playing in the background on the record player is "New York Groove" from Ace Frehley's 1978 solo release and even the original by the band Hello was not released until 1975. See more »
[to his son, Frank]
Listen, your mother... your mother was a bitch. She was a real bitch. She beat the shit out of your brother and sister on a daily basis with whatever she had in her hand. She was a violent drunk, she was a twisted fucking slut.
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While there is much to be commended in the fact that director Guillaume Canet and his production team have here in Blood Ties created a very decent recreation of the 1970's (with an overuse of record players, we get it OK, there weren't IPod's/CD's back then!) there is also much to be made of the fact that Blood Ties is a lifeless, seen a thousand times before, dull and dreary tale that fails to announce to us just why it exists.
On paper, things within Blood Ties would seem to add up to a pretty decent family/crime drama, even moments within seem to suggest Sidney Lumet was a huge inspiration. We have a name cast in the form of Clive Owen, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana and the ever disappointing Billy Crudup, then behind the scenes you have a film not only produced but co-written by crime genre specialist James Grey and director Guillaume Canet who has a decent track record in his native homeland of France with films such as the excellent Tell No One and the decent Little White Lies, but nothing within Blood Ties ads up to any anything decent, nothing we see here feels emotionally engaging and no one truly seems to care enough to change it.
Blood Ties needed someone too step up their game exceptionally within the piece, yet all participants seemingly rested on their laurels with the material and expected fireworks to happen. Canet's direction clearly did not help this dull overbearing feeling however with his stale, beyond workmanlike gig behind the camera transferring to one of the most bereft of life movies you'd care to see. Where is the tension to be found between warring brothers? The heart pounding experience of a crime in progress or the sparks between lovers? There is none of that to be found here despite the potential for it.
Bloods Ties best moments are all taken/borrowed from other much better films of the same genre, whether it be a climatic train station scene (Carlito's Way), a bank heist gone wrong (Heat) or brothers torn between loyalty to their family/friends or loyalty to their job (We Own the Night or State of Grace) and they go to show you just what can be done with this type of film if it's done right. Blood Ties doesn't do many things right and that makes this a film worthy of being crossed off your to watch list, even if the cast list looks like a sure fire success.
1 record player out of 5
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