“If there is any movie this year at Cannes that is absolutely brimming with promise on paper, it’s Guillaume Canet’s Blood Ties,” proposes Kevin Jagernauth at the Playlist. “With an extended cast featuring Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, Matthias Schoenaerts, Zoe Saldana, James Caan, Marion Cotillard, Noah Emmerich and Lili Taylor among others along with a script co-written by James Gray, one wonders how it could go wrong. And while Blood Ties isn’t a disaster, it’s certainly a mess, a sprawling crime saga that endeavors to evoke the great character-driven movies of the 1970s, but never quite lives up to its epic scope.”
“Canet’s attempt to do a Sidney Lumet flatlines in Blood Ties, an anemic drama about a family split defined by one brother being a cop, the other a criminal,” writes the Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy. “A remake of the 2008 French release [Jacques Maillot’s] Les Liens du Sang (Rivals ) which co-starred Canet as the policeman, this version’s bloat only spotlights the more crucial problem of lack of energy and internal turmoil in the main characters.”
Variety‘s Scott Foundas notes that Canet brought the original “to the 1970s New York of The French Connection and Serpico fame. Result is a sluggish, dramatically undernourished saga that somehow manages to exceed the original pic’s running time by 40 minutes without adding anything appreciable to the story or characters.”
The Guardian‘s Xan Brooks: “Crudup stars as Franck, his moustache twitching like an anxious ferret as he strains to rein in bad-apple Chris (Owen), who’s out of jail and kicking up sparks. Franck longs to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) and has handily cleared away the competition by sticking her husband (Matthias Schoenaerts) behind bars. Chris, meantime, truly wants to go straight. But his dreams of running a refreshment stand come to nothing and the bad old life is constantly calling. From here, it’s a lumbering, thunderous journey towards the final showdown, as Canet drapes his tale in tatty ’70s fashions and leans hard on a soundtrack that is so endearingly literal it practically digs us in the ribs. He plays ‘Do What You Gotta Do’ when the brothers are fighting and ‘Money, Money, Money’ when the cash’s rolling in. Elsewhere, Marion Cotillard’s beautiful junkie prostitute shows up in slow-motion to the squalling sounds of Lee Moses’s ‘Bad Girl’—just as a hint that she is not to be trusted.”
“For all its flaws, however, there’s something oddly compelling about the scale of Canet’s (Tell No One) vision,” finds Fionnuala Halligan in Screen. “The impeccable technical credits, the leached lensing of Christophe Offenstein… James Gray himself is another benchmark—his own Little Odessa worked over very similar ground back in 1994… When Blood Ties lifts, such as during a bank heist sequence on the streets, it positively soars. Most of the time it paces around, however, threatening to come together but leaving the viewer to attempt to connect the multiple narrative dots… And in a film where the costumes are universally delightful, a pink suit worn by Chris for his wedding positively steals the show.”
Updates: “While it doesn’t quite get every beat right, strong performances and a satisfying plot make it a memory trip worth taking,” finds Ryland Aldrich at Twitch.
If, despite all the above, you’d like to listen to the press conference, you can.
“The movie takes its time, and it’s two-and-a-half hours long, but if you roll with it, it pays off,” advises EW‘s Owen Gleiberman.
Update, 5/24: Blood Ties is “a film that might be described as too James Gray for Gray to have directed himself,” suggests Guy Lodge at In Contention. “Between its elegiac genre qualities, its fuzzily gray visual textures, even its age-old tale of brothers on opposite sides of the law, it’s a veritable checklist of attributes from the director’s past films; small wonder it took a Frenchman to make it.”
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