Clive Owen in Blood Ties (2013)

Thicker Than Blood

Following a stretch inside for murder, 50 year old Chris (Clive Owen) is released and whilst reluctant his brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), a New York cop, takes him in and tries to help him go straight. But there is tension between the siblings especially as their father, Leon (James Caan) has always loved his eldest son more. Unfortunately for Chris mud sticks and along with another former criminal they find going straight is impossible and return to a life of crime as they stage robberies and Chris pimps out, Monica (Marion Cotillard), his ex-wife and the mother of his children. But with Frank becoming close to Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), a former girlfriend now involved with the dangerous Scarfo (Matthias Schoenaerts) it seems these brothers are going to need each other more than ever.

Right off the bat I have to say that "Blood Ties" is so full of drama and characters that you end up taking your eye off of where the story might be going. And that isn't an issue as the build up is so well written and acted it is a joy to watch. The issue for me is that as a movie reviewer not only is there a lot to cover I don't want to go through it because it nicely leads you through what is a bit of a sprawling storyline that to give too much plot detail spoils it.

Billy Crudup in Blood Ties (2013)

So what should I say about "Blood Ties"? Well one of the things the movie explores is the relationship between Chris and Frank with Frank clearly being jealous of the relationship between his brother and father. We also see how easily Chris can press Frank's buttons and despite being 50 years old still likes doing it as if they were still children. But of course with Chris returning to a life of crime and with Frank being a cop there is also the inevitable professional conflict. But this is where the water muddies because of Frank's growing relationship with Vanessa, an ex who is now with a criminal. It adds so many layers to the movie as does the way Chris treats his ex-wife and also his young bride that as I said you lose focus on where the story is going to end and just enjoy the character dynamics.

My only issue with "Blood Ties" is when it comes to the acting and casting. Now I am a fan of Clive Owen but at times he seems to be over thinking his performance as Chris and it makes some scenes feel hesitant as if he is thinking how the character should act rather than making it feel natural. But then there is the casting and in truth the writing because you have Mila Kunis as Natalie, the young woman who Chris hooks up with and you wonder with the almost 19 year age gap between Owen and Kunis why they cast her, why she needed to be younger. Although if it was to establish Chris has a type the visual similarities between Kunis and Cotillard work well. In fairness beyond some hesitancy the acting is good and contributes to making this an engaging drama.

What this all boils down to is that "Blood Ties" is not without its issues but the storyline and characters works well enough that it sucks you in to the drama between two brothers to the point you forget that inevitably it has to lead to something.