Saturday movie review: 'Blood Ties'

Blood Ties DVD

Films featuring themes of brothers at odds or cops versus robbers abound, yet I've found few as engaging as BLOOD TIES starring Clive Owen and Billy Crudup. In this gritty tale (meaning, expect blood and violence) set in 1970s Brooklyn and directed by Guillaume Canet, Clive Owen stars as Chris, a 50-year-old criminal recently released from prison, and Billy Crudup plays his younger brother, Frank, a police officer regularly struggling with doing the right thing.

Brotherly love (and hate) is far from the sole theme of BLOOD TIES, though. The romantic entanglements of the brothers — Zoe Zaldana, Mila Kunis and Marion Cotillard in prominent, poignant roles — as well as their familial connections (James Caan plays their father; Lili Taylor their sister) add to the conflicts faced by the brothers, individually and together. The entanglements and attachments shine a harsh light on themes of redemption, responsibility, forgiveness, and doing the right thing.


The impressive ensemble cast of BLOOD TIES lifts the crime drama — based on the novel Deux Freres, Un Flic, Un Truand written by Michel and Bruno Papet — to an unexpected level. I had no favorites in the film and cared equally for each of the main characters (and some of the minor ones, too) without rhyme, reason or justification. What's good and right versus bad and wrong isn't all that simple and definitive in the atmospheric film. Which worked perfectly to underscore that which is the case more often than not when it comes to ties of most sorts.

Billy Crudup James Caan Blood TiesFrom left to right: Billy Crudup ("Frank," left) and James Caan ("Leon," right) star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment's BLOOD TIES.

The music of BLOOD TIES continually elicited in me "Ah... yes!" moments and created an unmistakable '70s vibe without relying on the typical film staples used to remind viewers of a story's era. The soundtrack included Ace Frehley's "New York Groove," Janis Ian's "At Seventeen," Velvet Underground's "Heroin," Sam Cooke's "I'll Come Running Back to You" and others, rounded out by an original score by Yodelice that's at one turn tense and heart-thumping then haunting and heart-rending. The eclectic mix comes together to symbolize the uncompromising realism of Chris and Frank's world while still allowing glimpses of hope, romance and, yes, redemption.

Clive Owen Mila Kunis Blood TiesClive Owen ("Chris") and Mila Kunis ("Natalie") star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment's BLOOD TIES.

BLOOD TIES from Lionsgate (rated R for "violence, pervasive language, some sexual content and brief drug use") was released in theaters earlier this year and is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and streaming. Visit the official website for more info.

Photos courtesy Lionsgate.

Today's question:

What are you watching this weekend?