MRR Review: "Blood Ties"

Photo Credit: Roadside Attractions

Rating: R
Length: 127 minutes
Release Date: March 21, 2014
Directed by: Guillaume Canet
Genre: Crime / Drama / Thriller

"Blood Ties" is a remake of the 2008 French thriller "Les Liens du Sang." Like the original film, "Blood Ties" follows the life of two brothers who navigate the thin line between right and wrong. However, "Blood Ties" features a few unique plot twists and excellent acting that makes the film better than the original.

Plot Summary

"Blood Ties" opens with a scene showing a man named Chris being released from jail. When he exits the prison, Chris sees his younger brother, Frank, reluctantly waiting for him. As the two men struggle to carry on a conversation during the drive home, it is revealed that Frank is a cop with a passion for upholding the law, and Chris is a convicted murderer who has been in and out of prison since he was a teenager.

As the film progresses, Chris reunites with his wife and children and seems to be turning his life around once and for all. However, when Chris runs into an old friend at a bar, he is tempted to return to a life of crime. After agreeing to a heist, Frank unknowingly ends up getting involved with the wrong men.

Frank soon discovers Chris' transgression, and he vows to cut ties with him. However, Chris' latest involvement with crime puts both brothers at risk. Frank soon finds himself forced to choose between breaking the law and ending his relationship with his brother.


"Blood Ties" features an excellent cast of veteran actors and film professionals. Clive Owen drives the movie forward with his portrayal of career criminal Chris. Owen manages the difficult task of showing the good and bad qualities that his character possesses. Billy Crudup, who plays Frank, excellently contrasts with Owen's character. Crudup makes his character appear to be flawlessly dedicated to upholding the law. However, throughout the film, the audience glimpses Frank's forays into bending and breaking the law. Together, Crudup and Owen create a realistic portrayal of the strength of family bonds without making the onscreen relationship appear to be forced.

James Caan plays the father of Chris and Frank. His character strongly favors Frank despite his choice to live a life of crime. His performance emphasizes the differences between Chris and Frank and provides an intriguing back story that explains why the brothers live their lives so differently.

"Blood Ties" also features a long list of supporting characters that add depth to the movie. Several subplots revolve around Chris' wife, who is played by Marion Cotillard. Cotillard manages to pull off portraying a drug abusing prostitute while highlighting the character's love for her husband and children. Mila Kunis, who plays Frank's wife, is not featured much throughout the movie, but she creates a memorable character. Kunis conveys a range of realistic emotions as her character struggles to keep her husband's secrets and repair his relationship with his brother.

Set Design

Unlike many films set in the past, "Blood Ties" accurately depicts Brooklyn during the 1970s without jarring anachronisms. From the cars to the characters' clothing, each element appears to be authentically dated. Additionally, Raphaƫl Hamburger expertly crafted a soundtrack that features only music that was popular in the 1970s. This complemented the authentic appearance of the set.

Unfortunately, director Guillaume Canet removed several background markers, such as modern New York monuments, landmarks and signs to keep the setting as realistic as possible. This makes the visual dating of the film accurate, but the background appears to lack any real focal points and comes off as somewhat overly produced.

Plot Construction

The story of two brothers on opposite sides of the law has been told numerous times. However, Canet made "Blood Ties" unique by making the characters more relatable to the audience and less unidimensional. For example, although Frank appears to be a straight-edged cop, he hides secrets from his family and breaks the law on several occasions. Likewise, Chris appears to be simply a murderer and a career criminal. However, the film exposes other aspects of the character, such as his motivations to provide for his family, that redeem his transgressions.

Because the characters are more than what they first appear to be, the plot is unpredictable and more exciting to watch. Several key scenes show situations where the characters make unexpected decisions. In addition, the film concludes with a thrilling car chase that results in an unexpected ending.

Although "Blood Ties" is a remake, the film manages to be unique while telling the same story. The superb acting in this film makes it enjoyable to watch, and the main plot is enhanced by various subplots. Overall, "Blood Ties" is an entertaining must-see drama for a discerning audience.