Blood Ties Blu-ray Review
It’s been almost a decade since Chris Pierznyski (Clive Owen, HEMINGWAY & GELLHORN) got arrested for murder. There to greet him when the jail cell door opens is his brother Frank (Billy Crudup, TOO BIG TO FAIL) and their sister (Lili Taylor, THE CONJURING). Frank takes him to see his wife, Monica (Mario Cotillard, RUST AND BONE), and children, who don’t even recognize him.
Frank, a cop with the NYPD, has never mentioned his brother to his friends, but feels obliged to help him get back on his feet. He sets him up with a job at a garage and gives him a room in his home. When asked if he has any plans, Chris replies, “Keep the judge happy.” Not long after, he he’s presented with a business opportunity by a fellow ex-convict, but it quickly falls apart due to his and his would-be partner’s pasts. He’s soon led back into crime, which puts him at odds with his brother. Well, who didn’t see that coming?
BLOOD TIES is just as obvious as one might have figured. What’s fairly frustrating is that the stale, clichéd plotline could have been avoided entirely if Frank refused to help Chris. Sure, they’re brothers and he’s trying to do the right thing, but clearly the bond isn’t there and Frank, who had a hand in a botched raid not long before picking his brother up, doesn’t need to get involved with such characters.
We’re supposed to care about both brothers, as one makes the attempt to go straight and the other wants to do his best, but we don’t. Part of the reason is that the subplots involve scenarios that serve little purpose and only get in the way of what could have made the characters sympathetic, like the one involving Frank’s former relationship with Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), who by convenience is the girlfriend of a man Frank put away. The movie just seems so unsure of what it thinks will work and so throws in too much. Another distracting failure is the soundtrack, which is strong itself, but not entirely of the time—the movie opens with “New York Groove” but then pumps the rest of the soundtrack with “Crimson and Clover,” “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Then He Kissed Me,” none of which properly fit the era and so don’t contribute to the intended mood.
Still, beyond the thin screenplay by director Guillaume Canet (2006’s TELL NO ONE, which won him Best Director at France’s César Awards) and James Gray (THE IMMIGRANT, which also starred Cotillard), BLOOD TIES has some redeeming qualities. Take, for instance, the moments of shocking brutality, like Chris’ ruthless series of killings in a local bar, punctuated by a bullet to the head of an employee who had no chance of surviving the first two shots.
The cast (which also includes James Caan, Noah Emmerich, Mila Kunis and Matthias Schoenaerts), especially Owen and Crudup, is also quite good considering what they’re given, and give it a strong go at elevating the movie above the poorly written and structured drama-thriller they surely know it is.
BLOOD TIES BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.39:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Overall, the video presentation lacks pop and a variety of color, but is still stable and heavy on detail and texture for the duration.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The audio transfer is definitely the highlight of the two, as it features crisp dialogue, booming sound effects (particularly the gunfire) and a strong soundtrack.
Behind the Scenes (26:22): This featurette uses interviews (with director Guillaume Canet, as well as stars Clive Owen, Billy Crudup and more) and on-set footage to look at the making of BLOOD TIES.