Blood Ties (R)

March 21, 2014
By Michael Nordine
Blood Ties runs just over two hours, and much of that time is spent wondering how such a strong ensemble cast (Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Matthias Schoenaerts, and James Caan) wound up in such a generic crime thriller. Set in 1974 New York, its brothers-on-opposite-ends-of-the-law narrative revolves around cop Frank (Crudup) and con Chris (Owen). Owen does what he often does: turns a morally ambiguous character into the most charming guy in the room. Every relationship is built on years of hardship that we're not entirely privy to, and everyone has a checkered past; all well and good, but we too rarely feel the weight of all this backstory. You can feel director Guillaume Canet trying to turn the film into some kind of epic, even if it ultimately seems to be the continuation of a narrative that only exists in its characters' heads. (It doesn't help that We Own the Night all but obviated the need for another movie like this.)

In the absence of emotional substance, Canet relies too heavily on a jukebox-friendly soundtrack ("Crimson and Clover," "Heroin") and familiarity with his performers. Though it takes a long while for the many moving parts to click into place, the final minutes redeem not only a few characters but also Blood Ties itself -- not enough to make up for prior transgressions, perhaps, but enough to leave a favorable last impression.

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