Blood Ties is a remake of the 2008 production Les Liens Du Sang – which Canet himself took s starring role in – and the director has since moved this story to New York in the 1970s, where we meet cop Frank (Billy Crudup), who unwittingly puts up his brother Chris (Clive Owen) following the latter’s release from a lengthy jail sentence. The pair have a distinct conflict of interests, and while initially it seems he wants to turn his life around, trouble inevitably follows Chris around. In the meantime he tries to reconnect with his ex-partner (Marion Cotillard), while starting a new relationship with his latest flame, Natalie (Mila Kunis). Frank has romantic woes of his own, hoping to win back the love of Vanessa, played by Zoe Saldana – who acts everybody else off the screen.
There are also roles for James Caan, playing the two brothers’ dad, and for Matthias Schoenaerts too, as Vanessa’s other half Scarfo, yet sadly this quite staggeringly impressive group of actors are not given a screenplay worthy of their talents. The most intriguing character, however, is Chris, as a role we’ve seen many times before; the elusive, brooding figure that Ryan Gosling is usually asked to play first. However Owen plays the role with a charm of sorts, and a grin smacked across his face at all times. Yet he remains just as mysterious, and to some degree, he appears even more sinister, as you know that this blissful demeanour is to be short-lived.
There’s a great, if somewhat contrived, 70s atmosphere created by Canet, which is as gritty as it is groovy. The haircuts, the funky music and the sepia tinted aesthetic all help to form this ambiance, and yet it never feels authentic in a way, instead overtly cinematic and cliched. The soundtrack, however, is arguably the film’s very finest facet, with tracks by The Velvet Underground and Sam Cooke included. The music is extremely prominent in this picture, and unrelenting in its implementation, with so many sequences sequences driven by the melody playing.
In spite of the admiration shown towards Canet for this stylistic endeavour, and attempt at combining his ingenious, French sensibilities with a more classic Hollywood tone, regrettably there just isn’t quite the strength, or innovation, in this narrative. Everything is in place to have created a truly sensational piece of cinema, and yet you can’t help feeling somewhat cold towards this film, despite the memorable, impactful finale.