|Audio Format:||DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1|
|Runtime:||2 Hours 03 mins|
|Extras:||Behind the Scenes Featurette|
|Release Date:||USA: June 24 2014
UK: October 6 2014
|See If You Like:||Brotherhood,
Out of the Furnace
With a hugely impressive ensemble cast, a French-American produced remake of the 2008 French crime-thriller Les liens du sang (itself an adaptation of Bruno and Michael Papet’s French novel Deux frères: flic & trvand), Blood Ties is a must watch movie; a well acted film, with a great story.
Set in 1974, Blood Ties is the tale of two brothers, bonded by blood but starkly different in every way imaginable; Chris (Clive Owen, Trust) has just been released from prison after serving nine years for killing a man, and goes to live with his brother Frank (Billy Crudup, Public Enemies), a man who’s professional life as a cop puts him at odds with his brother’s past.
Their already tense relationship goes from awkward to worse when Chris’ attempts at going straight fall flat, and he inevitably heads back to a life of crime, putting Frank in a very awkward position and leading to some gravely difficult choices for the brother/cop who once idolised his ex-con older brother.
Other issues also come into play involving their father (James Caan, Misery) and sister (Lili Taylor, The Conjuring) who just want them to get along for once, Chris’ new girlfriend (Mila Kunis, Ted), Chris’ ex-girlfriend/hooker Monica (Marion Cotillard, The Dark Knight Rises), and Frank’s personal life; as after arresting a man suspected of robbery he starts seeing the same man’s girlfriend (Zoe Saldana, Guardians of the Galaxy), who just so happens to be his ex-girlfriend, and finds the con (who’s due to be released in a few short months) is obviously none to happy about the new pairing.
As ever, Clive Owen delivers a sterling performance as the ex-con who initially tries to walk the straight and narrow but slips back into his old ways (effectively playing the subtlety of the conflicted soul, and appearing believably apathetic and aggressive when needs be), but the real internal conflict comes from the excellent Billy Crudup; who’s character goes through a great deal, and delivers a completely believable internal and external moral struggle (over his brother’s choices, what that means for his career, and everything going on in his personal life) which not only helps draw you in, but leads anyone watching to question how they would handle the same situation.
Supporting stars also fare well; James Caan has always been an outstanding actor and proves just as much here (being a powerful man, and having real presence, despite believably portraying the frail father of the two opposing boys), Zoe Saldana also suitably strong (delivering a performance similar, but much more involved, to her turn in Out of the Furnace), Marion Cotillard is as powerful and damaged as ever, and it’s even interesting to see Mila Kunis handling a more serious role than we’re used to from here; and filling out even minor roles with actors such as Noah Emmerich (The Walking Dead) and John Ventimiglia (The Sopranos) mean Blood Ties’ ensemble cast does a fantastic job of bringing their characters to life, and making every single person in the film feel like a well-rounded, real, person.
Though the writing has as much to do with that as anything (because despite the boys brilliantly bouncing off, or into, one another, the chemistry between them and their female companions is somewhat lacking), as each character is inherently flawed, and there’s so much back story established that each character, no matter how minor, feels like they’ve actually lived a full life; like they are real, they are in this situation, and they are inhabiting this broken slice of the 1970s Big Apple.
Yet while it may look cool, and the set dressing, props, costume department, etc. all seem to have done flawless work in recreating the 1970s period (even the directing style used by co-writer/director Guillaume Canet, of Little White Lies) seems to effectively mirror the classic ‘70s cop movies we know so well), it seems like a slightly unnecessary setting. Sure it looks amazing; the hair, the clothes, the cars; and sounds just as good; not only the wonderful ‘70s soundtrack (which often takes centre stage and opens the movie with Back In The New York Groove), but the cars, the old telephones, and dialogue; but there’s no reason we couldn’t have seen Blood Ties set in modern day NYC, Boston, or Detroit.
Still picky setting gripe aside (the ‘70s setting and feel does actually look great), Blood Ties is a bit of a slow burner; it’s certainly not a popcorn film (if all you’re into is the likes of Transformers or The Avengers, then it’s probably not for you), but builds, and builds, upon a hugely engaging story which effectively draws you in for an edge-of-your-seat finale which is tense, heart-racing, and simply fantastic. And with a story this strong, an undeniably cool setting, capable direction, a solid soundtrack, and a brilliant conclusion, there’s really no good reason not to watch Blood Ties.
Despite being filmed digitally, Blood Ties‘ Blu-ray presentation looks exceptionally film-like, and mirrors the type of image you’d expect to see from a classic ‘70s thriller; there’s a clear layer of grain coating the image, and although there’s a softness to the overall look which slightly hampers the fine detail, the level of detail on show is still well above average, and looks exceptional during a number of close-up shots.
Whilst the contrast may not be as robust as some new releases, it’s once again fitting with the overall tone of the video quality, and the film itself; coming to Blu-ray leaning towards the yellow end of the spectrum (giving Manhattan a rather grubby look), and maintaining a strength and stability (with no compression artifacts, or other transfer problems, evident) which not only helps it perfectly mirror the era in which it’s representing, but stand up as a solid transfer in its own right, boasting a more than watchable image.
Coming to Blu-ray with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, the audio for Blood Ties unfortunately doesn’t hold up quite as well as the image itself; as while dialogue is consistently clean, crisp, and intelligible, dynamic range is good, and there’s no muffling or drop-out anywhere, the entire mix seems to be just a little too front heavy.
Rear channels get a fair workout during the action scenes, or when the various ‘70s songs are blasting out (often accompanied with some weighty bass), but overall they’re just too quiet, lacking the ambient noise which would’ve helped create a fully involving, more realistic, soundstage.
As for special features, the sole item of bonus content on the Blood Ties disc is a 25 minute long Behind The Scenes featurette which, although it contains sections of EPK style material and is often subtitled, is actually pretty interesting, and covers everything from filming specific scenes, to characterisation, language problems, and issues with casting via behind the scenes videos, clips from the film, and cast and crew interviews; making for a watchable singular feature, yet a far from extensive overall collection (a couple of smaller featurettes, on say cars/clothes and the original film, and more in-depth interviews would’ve helped).
The Bottom Line:
Despite being screened at the Cannes Film Festival, Blood Ties was unfortunately given only a limited theatrical run; meaning it largely slipped under the radar, and didn’t receive anywhere near the amount of attention it deserved. More realistic than American Hustle, and the cinematic counterpart to Brotherhood, with a great soundtrack, exceptional set design, an impressive cast, brilliant acting (Owen is fantastic; vulnerable and intense; and the highlight of the film), and a jam-packed story which, while slow, is well worth watching for the gripping finale alone.
Coming to Blu-ray with solid picture quality, audio which while not exceptional is still more than adequate, and an informative (though not entirely extensive) behind the scenes featurette, Blu-ray is also the way to go with Blood Ties; a thrilling family/crime drama which oozes style, feels just like the ’70s movies it emulates, and pays off in a big way.