Clive Owen and Billy Crudup lead a powerhouse cast — including Mila Kunis, Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone) — as a pair of brothers on opposite sides of the law in Guillaume Canet’s English-language remake of the gritty, 1970s-set crime drama Les liens du sang.
Blood Ties takes us back to the mean streets of mid-seventies New York, a world of harried cops, addled hustlers, and high-rolling criminals. In this world, familial bonds trump other loyalties. So the fact that Frank (Billy Crudup) wears a badge while Chris (Clive Owen, also starring in the Festival premiere Words and Pictures) mixes with hoodlums is less significant than the fact that they're brothers. That's all that matters in the end.
The latest from Guillaume Canet (Tell No One) is the director's most ambitious thriller to date, recreating the dingy swagger of the pre-Giuliani era in meticulous detail, while tracing every thread of Blood Ties' knotty plot so as to keep us oriented at all times.
We follow Chris as he leaves prison, tries to go straight, and falls in love with Natalie (Mila Kunis). We follow Frank as he tries to juggle conflicting obligations to the NYPD, to his siblings and ailing father (James Caan), and to Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), the former lover he's trying to win back. Meanwhile, Monica (Marion Cotillard), the mother of Chris' children, tries to make a go of running her own brothel, while Vanessa's ex (Matthias Schoenaerts) seeks revenge on Frank.
The script was written by Canet and James Gray, whose We Own the Night displays a number of similar themes. It's based on the Bruno and Michel Papet novel Les liens du sang, as well as a previous French film adaptation. But Blood Ties feels like a fresh, vibrant take on tribal violence and the primal struggle of brother against brother, infused with Scorsese-like stylistics, magnetic performances-Crudup is especially good here-and Canet's thorough attention to narrative complexity. These ties tangle-you'll have to wait until the bracing finale to see how they unravel.