Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
I'll tell you one thing about Guillame Canet's 'Blood Ties'… damn this movie looks good.  I'm not talking 'slick' good or 'clean print' good but 1970's good.  Everything about this production feels like this was a movie that was actually shot in the 1970's.  The clothes, the cars, the furniture, the curtains, to even the somewhat yellowed washed out print… if nothing else, 'Blood Ties' was brutally authentic.  Clive Owens holding on to his Brooklyn accent… not so much.  But that aside, 'Blood Ties' was so meticulous in its setting and presentation, and so effective in placing me in that time, that its missteps were easy enough for me to look past.

Billy Crudup is New York Police Detective Frank Pierzynski, a man who seems, at best, socially maladjusted.  The source of Frank's disposition could very well be his older brother Chris (Owen) who is getting released from prison on furlough today, and while his sister Marie (Lili Taylor) seems overjoyed to see her brother… Frank looks uncomfortable.  But then Frank looks uncomfortable pretty much all of the time.  We should probably mention that this film opened with Frank leading a big bust that went all to hell, and it wasn't lost on Frank's boss that he seemed to know the girlfriend, Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), of the guy these cops just performed a major offensive on and busted for the major crime of having an unregistered firearm. 

But to Frank's benefit, despite the fact he's following this woman around everywhere she goes, which probably wouldn't become against the law for another fifteen years, Frank does try to do right by his brother by allowing him to move in with him, despite the objections of the aforementioned boss, and he also found Chris a job.
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Here's the thing… Chris wants to do right… he really does… but 'do right' and 'Chris' are two words that just don't get along.  Eventually Chris has to go back to doing what he knows how to do, and that flies diametrically against the thing that Frank knows how to do, which as you might imagine will cause all kinds of conflict between the two brothers, with this conflict coming to a head on a sparse New York street during an armored truck robbery.

Frank knows he has to let Chris go, which is just as well since Chris has gone and completely immersed himself into his old lifestyle, running a whorehouse run by his drug addict ex-wife Monica (Marion Cotillard), all in service to help care for his new pregnant wife Natalie (Mila Kunis).  Frank for his part has had enough of the NYPD scrutinizing him, is about to call it, besides, he's managed to stalk Vanessa into falling in love with him.  This technique has yet to work for me.

Problem is Vanessa kind of already had a boyfriend, and he's kind of out of jail, and he's very unhappy.  Chris, admittedly, hasn't done much right by Frank, but at the end of the day, family must always stick together, no matter what the consequences.

There are some issues plaguing Guilliame Canet's period piece 'Blood Ties', this we cannot deny.  There are times when it moves far too slowly, there are moments the narrative bends under the weight of its own clunky dialog, at no point where we ever able to wrap my brain around the relationship between Frank and Vanessa, finding it completely illogical, more so from Vanessa's point of view since I couldn't completely understand why she was with Frank in the first place.  And Clive Owen's steely blue-eyed glare can only go so far.  We love Clive Owen here at the FCU, but considering his wavering accent and the fact that he spent a good bit of this movie side by side with his best friend Mike, played by a legitimate New Yorker in Dominic Lombardazzo, only exacerbated the fact that this is was a guy from England playing a New Yorker.

Yes, there are issues, but we still liked the movie because the movie just felt so good.  It looked good, it sounded good, it smelled good… seriously, I could literally smell the Pizza and the sausage in the cannoli.  No joke.  Obviously, a movie that just looks good doesn't make, all by itself, for an entertaining film but over the course of the film I was able to get involved into the story that Canet was telling me.  Yes, that accent Clive Owens affected tended to be oft-putting, but the actual character of Chris worked for me.  The path he took from his attempts to do right, to the self-realization that a life of crime was his unavoidable destiny played out very well on the screen.  While Frank was a more difficult to character to get a feel for, to the point that he was far too difficult to root for despite Billy Crudup's solid performance, what was easy to get behind was the complex relationship between these two brothers.  This is essentially what the movie revolves around, and in that sense 'Blood Ties' was a complete success. 

So while there are a few roadblocks on our way to praising 'Blood Ties', it is dead on accurate with the big things.  And it does look good doing it.
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