Blood Ties, film review: Despite hints of power, this crime movie's ties don't always bind

(15) Guillaume Canet, 125 mins Starring: Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Mila Kunis
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The Independent Culture

Blood Ties may be a remake of a French movie but it plays like the director Guillaume Canet's homage to 1970s American crime drama, shot through with references to everything from Mean Streets to The Godfather and The French Connection.

In its lesser moments, the film is overwrought and derivative but, at its best, it has a real flavour of Friedkin, Coppola and Scorsese. The performances are wildly uneven, an inevitability given that there are British, Belgian, French and American actors all playing hard-bitten New Yorkers.

Clive Owen's character, Chris, a ne'er-do-well fresh out of prison, is like an older version of Robert De Niro's Johnny Boy in Mean Streets. He has a fraught, Cain and Abel-like relationship with his brother Frank (Billy Crudup), a cop who despises his lawless ways.

Canet goes to great lengths to recreate 1970s New York. There are some raw and powerful moments here – Owen banging his head against an iron pole in a bid to curb his own violent instincts, James Caan as the boys' father telling them grim stories about their errant mother.

The chases and heists are staged in brutally effective fashion and some of the Method acting – especially that of Flemish star Matthias Schoenaerts – registers strongly. There are also scenes which lurch into crude, soap opera-style melodrama. Blood Ties is an uneven film but one that could well develop cult status.