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    Blood Ties Blu-ray Review

    Blu-ray Lionsgate

    Jun 20 2014 01:33 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    An English-language remake of the French film Les liens du sang, Guillaume Canet’s Blood Ties has lost something in the translation. Flat-footed and rather heavy-handed in pacing and with assorted storylines that don’t mesh satisfyingly into one another, this thriller pitting two brothers on different sides of the law against one another has been told many times before and often to much better effect than we get here.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Lionsgate
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
    • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
    • Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD
    • Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
    • Rating: R
    • Run Time: 2 Hr. 8 Min.
    • Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet
    • Case Type: keep case in a slipcover
    • Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
    • Region: A
    • Release Date: 06/24/2014
    • MSRP: $24.99

    The Production Rating: 2.5/5

    Career criminal Chris (Clive Owen) is being furloughed out of prison after his latest ten-year stretch on the condition that he can get and keep a job. His police detective younger brother Frank (Billy Crudup) finds him work at a garage, but the only thing he gets out of that place is a new girl friend (Mila Kunis). It’s not long before Chris is back with his old gangland buddies scoring major hauls and setting his hooker ex-wife Monica (Marion Cotillard) up as a new madam with her own brothel. Frank, aware that his brother has returned to crime, throws him out of the apartment they’d been sharing, but that doesn’t stop his lieutenant (Noah Emmerich) from putting the heat on Frank about Chris’ shady activities and to Frank’s eventually quitting the force. And it’s not an advantageous time for Frank to be without a job since he’s returned to an old love Vanessa (Zoe Saldana) who’s left her recently arrested and dangerously jealous husband (Matthias Schoenaerts) to go back to Frank.

    There are plenty of characters and lots of conflict in the screenplay penned by director Guillaume Canet and James Gray, but it all seems rather wayward and without much connective tissue to thrust us confidently from one dramatic moment to the next (and there are plenty of them with these New York characters all with hair-trigger tempers). A couple of set pieces aren’t without interest in their stagings and volatile shocks: a gangland hit carried out by Chris and a later armored car holdup where accomplices are murdered right in the street after their part of the plan is concluded, but a late car chase through Manhattan as Chris tries to evade police and save his brother from certain assassination defies the odds of a speedy chase through midtown Manhattan during the day (it’s as phony as a three-dollar bill) and is also lacking in suspense. The film does manage to capture the look and feel of 1974 New York with the grimy streets, smoky clubs, rock and soul music blasting away on stereos and radios, and the usual back alley brawls, but marvelous actors like Marion Cotillard and James Caan (as the stars’ ailing father still chain smoking with only one lung left) aren’t used to maximum effect, and plot points like Frank’s leaving his job just get dropped without follow-up.

    Clive Owen and Billy Crudup don’t much resemble brothers, and the game is really given away when Owen’s British accent manages to pop out at several intervals between his put-on Brooklyn twang. Their strained relationship does seem genuine throughout, and yet the brotherly attraction also rears its head in some late-breaking moments all to good effect. Marion Cotillard’s puts on a very weird accent that seems part Russian, part French, and part Italian as the druggie ex-wife trying to get off the streets and into something safer and more lucrative, but Mila Kunis and Zoe Saldana have more effective moments as the important women in the lives of the two top-billed stars. Matthias Schoenaerts’ malevolent Anthony offers probably the film’s best performance, but he’s almost matched by Domenick Lombardozzi as Chris’ criminal brother-in-arms. James Caan and Lili Taylor stand on the sidelines successfully as father and sister who are powerless to keep the two siblings from their inevitable headlong encounter while Griffin Dunne, John Ventimiglia, and Noah Emmerich do strong work in smaller parts.

    Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA

    The film has been framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Color is quite washed out and lackluster to give the film a drab look from New York’s forty-year old past, and contrast is also a bit milky to aid in that cinematic tone. Sharpness is good, but black levels are compromised a bit by the increased contrast. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.

    Audio Rating: 3.5/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is quite a bit undernourished for a story taking place in the mean streets of New York in the 1970s. While there are plenty of period tunes piped into the fronts (with some spill into the rear channels) and a bit more envelopment from the quirky percussive score by Yodelice, split sound effects are mostly front-centered with the rears barely used except for some subtle panning late in the movie.

    Special Features: 1.5/5

    Behind the Scenes of Blood Ties (26:22, HD) director Guillaume Canet (mostly speaking in French with subtitles), his director of photography Christophe Offenstein (also speaking in French), and stars Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Marion Cotillard, Zoe Saldana, and James Caan describe the production’s working methods. We also see behind-the-scene glimpses of the director at work with action scenes being staged and shot, and we watch some of the soundtrack score being composed and recorded.

    Promo Trailers (HD): Joe, Redemption, Mud.

    Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case.

    Overall Rating: 2.5/5

    Blood Ties is a disappointingly dispiriting character-driven thriller that never quite gets firing on all cylinders. It has a great cast and some interesting performances to be sure, but the film as a whole is something of a letdown.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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