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Blood Ties (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

Blood Ties

Blood Ties


Starring Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Matthias Schoenaerts, James Caan, Noah Emmerich, Lili Taylor, Mark Mahoney, Charlie Tahan, Daisy Tahan, Domenick Lombardozzi, Jamie Hector, John Ventimiglia, Griffin Dunne, Eve Hewson, Dominik Tiefenthaler, Yul Vazquez and Austin Williams.

Screenplay by Guillaume Canet and James Gray.

Directed by Guillaume Canet.

Distributed by Rogue Pictures.  144 minutes.  Rated R.

It is not at all rare for a family to have a black sheep, a single member who spends all of their time getting in and out of scrapes with the law.

Blood Ties takes that dynamic and flips it.  What would happen if a family which bred a long line of petty thieves and tough guys spawns a child who decides to become a policeman?  How would that affect the family dynamic?  Will he become something of an outcast?  And what would happen if an investigation he is doing appears to point towards his older brother?  Would he be able to turn in his own flesh and blood?  Can he be true to his job when the circumstances cut so close?

Blood Ties is based upon a true story of two French brothers, one a cop and one a gangster.  Their situation also spawned the 2008 French film Les liens du sang.  In fact, director Guillaume Canet learned the story and originally met the brothers while making the French version as an actor.

“Years after I shot the original French film, I came back to this story,” Canet told me recently.  “I had always pictured it in the 70s in New York – I don’t know why – but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  That is why I knew I had to make it and I had to direct it.”

Blood Ties shows his love and respect for the urban New York crime stories of the 70s, such as The French Connection, Mean Streets, Serpico, Taxi Driver and Dog Day Afternoon.

He’s got the grit of 70s New York down pat.  Blood Ties really does have the vibe of a lost old Sidney Lumet exploration of crime and punishment in old Gotham.

I just wish his story was nearly as interesting as those older classic films.  Blood Ties has some great moments, but no one will ever mistake it for a classic.

Billy Crudup plays the cop and Clive Owen are the con who find themselves on opposite sides of the law even as they try to save their family ties.

As the film begins, Owen’s Chris is just getting out of jail after serving a long stretch.  Their younger (and quite diplomatic) sister (played by Lili Taylor) tries to keep the two brothers friendly, but she can’t put up Chris because she is caring for their terminally ill dad (James Caan).

So Crudup’s cop Frank offers his brother a place to stay, even though they have some serious personality issues beyond the simple outlook on law and order.  However, as Chris gets deeper and deeper back into the underworld, it starts effecting Frank’s career.

In the meantime, both brothers are trying to navigate new relationships.  Frank appears to be damned near stalking the wife of a man he put in jail (Zoe Saldana), until it turns out they had more of a history than she will originally allow.  In the meantime, Chris met a nice girl (Mila Kunis) at one of his short-lived attempts to hold a legit job.  However, his drug addict ex-wife (Marion Cotillard) is always in the picture complicating things.

Lots of things happen, including crosses and double crosses, but too much of the movie has a bit of a been-there/done-that feel.

Still, the acting is so good and the sense of place is intriguing enough to make Blood Ties worth a long look, particularly if you are into gangster dramas.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2014 All rights reserved. Posted: March 21, 2014.

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