If “Blood Ties” by Guillaume Canet hits all the right notes it’s probably because the partition is a familiar one: an Italian-American family drama based in New York, the gangster’s life, one final hit before I retire. This is a genre in itself.
Starring in no particular order Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, Marion Cotillard and Billy Crudup, “Ties” also include Clive Owen in the role of the bad guy. And that’s a strange casting choice. Owen is unconvincing as a gangster who recently got released from jail and whose brother (Crudup) is a cop. These two, both outstanding actors in their own rights, do not form a good pair at all.
Note to self: upon visiting New York City need to find that Brooklyn neighborhood of where girls of the calibre of Kunis, Saldana and Cotillard ply their trade as auto mechanic accountant, doctor’s office receptionist and madame. Then I need to find a car to get it fixed and also probably get that dental exam I’ve been postponing for some time.
“Blood Ties” was shown yesterday in competition. A remake of the French film adaptation also directed by Canet, it is based on the memoir written by the two French brothers who were on different sides of the law with the real story taking place in Lyon, France. But Canet, like us, is enamored with New York and decided on that city for the setting of his remake, finding the task of shooting his first period movie (the story is set in the 70s) especially complicated and thrilling based on comments at yesterday’s press conference.
“Blood Ties” is successful but it’s also far from perfect. Things are an awful long time-going–in fact, an hour (for a total run time of two hours and twenty-four minutes). Various plot details are put in place: Chris (Owen) comes home from prison with a Damocles sword hanging above his neck (either find a job and stick to it or get sent back to jail), he finds his ex Monica (Cotillard) still dabbling in heroin and meets a new girl (Kunis) at the garage where he finds a job, cleaning toilets. So many mini-stories lurching forward which could’ve been wrapped up in twenty minutes before jumping into action. That first hour pretty much leads “Blood Ties” to the cliff, but then something happens (murder and mayhem) and then everything is all and well again in film world. After the first sixty minutes Canet—he imbues himself with films like “Panic in Needle Park” from which he ripped a lot of set design ideas, “A Bronx Tale” and all those other I-talian-American gangster dramas we’ve known and love—switches into lower gear and start climbing the hill: the plot gains traction and characters become more interesting, leading “Blood” to its finale.