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Blood Ties (Blu-ray Review)

Blood-Ties THUMBGuilame Canet’s Blood Ties is an American-language remake of the 2008 French film Les liens du sang.  The film went to Cannes and really didn’t make much noise.  It wasn’t a part of the film competition but received screen in the “Out Of Competition” category.  And I can tell you it was just a surprise to me to see this thing screen here in the US this year, but of course in the limited variety.  When I did the press release for the film it interested me enough on two levels; the cast and the setting of the film.  A 70s crime film will always harken back fond memories to stuff from the likes of The French Connection during one of my favorite decades of cinema.  No, i didn’t go into thinking it would be THAT good (that’s expecting it to be a perfect film, haha).  I was just looking for something to, like always, merely entertain me and have me able to find merits on some level for it.

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Film 

Frank is a hard working, no-nonsense New York cop.  His brother Chris has just been released from prison after a 12 year sentence in which Frank only visited him once.  Chris tries to reconnect with his family as well as his ex-wife and children.  He’s trying to straight but circumstances lead him down the path of eventually turning to crime again.  Frank on the other hand re-enters a relationship with a woman whom he’s just arrested her husband and also must juggle the fact that he knows Chris is up to no good while upholding the law.

If ever there were a film that could buck the system and I could give a 3.75 dog rating to, this would be a candidate.  I gave it the benefit of the doubt and rounded it up.  While I did enjoy the movie, I marveled at the prospect of what it might have been had the script went through one more draft, a few more edits, or a more expert director at the helm.  It really has the makings of a crime classic to it, but it winds up becoming just a “good movie with great moments” in the end.  And no, that’s not a bad thing.

This film is beefed up by a stellar cast that gels together quite while.  I was pleasantly surprised with Mila Kunis in this one as in stuff like this she tends to stick out like a sore thumb.  No, I don’t think she’s a bad actress, its just that she can have difficulty rising to the level of some veteran players around her in dramas and such.  Clive Owen gives a damn good performance even if he slightly breaks into his British accent saying the word “heart” while crying.  His character gets the meatiest work of everyone and he really transcends his character to many different places.  He’s dark, untrusting and at some parts comes across as humorous.  Lili Taylor also gets some terrific moments that let her shine and I’m always happy for that.  I’m not going to go and name check everyone, just know that this film is elevated by great performances all around.  I will name drop Noah Emmerich and give kudos to them for casting the wonderful actor!

There’s something to be said about the film’s setting and sense of style that I really dug.  It takes place in the 70s, yet the film does not sit and flaunt that its the 70s.  There’s a big difference between a film like this and American Hustle.  Hustle wants to hit you in the face that its the 70s and that almost becomes a characters itself.  This film its just when the film takes place and the tone.  I really like that sense of restraint they show.  And it also seems to be edited and credited as if was one as well.  Its a pleasant feeling.  It’s more Argo with its setting and style than it is American Hustle I suppose you could say.

I had to work up a little guster to watch this film for review.  For some reason I wasn’t like “Whoo yea! Let’s do some Blood Ties”.  But, when I did, I was pleasantly surprised at how compelling of a little drama it actually was.  One brother cop, one brother criminal isn’t anything new or original, but here we get it in a pretty fresh fashion.  Its got terrific performances and will definitely satisfy if you’re into patient crime dramas.  I feel like this movie could have reached bigger heights with some tweaks, but I think it’s still pretty good regardless.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2:40.1

Clarity/Detail: Detail is kind of soft, but I think the film was aiming at this.  It’s trying to capture the look and grit of a 70s New York crime film and it does achieve it to some successes.  One sacrifice is that its not very colorful and doesn’t pop. But, the film does feature some solid detail work on clothing fabrics and surface textures.

Depth: Depth is rather solid.  As a relatively intimate film, there’s not really a whole lot to go on.

Black Levels: Blacks are relatively brightened up and no detail is lost in them.

Color Reproduction: Colors are dingy and don’t really pop.  I’d say this is mainly the aesthetic they were looking to go for with the color timing.

Flesh Tones: Consistent with a solid detail.  A little bit more yellow tinted than normal.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing witnessed

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: This is a pretty awesome and active track.  Shootouts, chases and all sorts of effects really bring this thing to life.  You’ll jump in your seat and feel as if you’re a part of the action in many sequences.

Low Frequency Extension: Car engines, gunshots, fights and all of it enhanced with a subwoofer.  As I said, its lifelike stuff that might make your eyes open or have you spring up when stuff happens.

Surround Sound Presentation: This track is maintained nicely, including some gunfire, car screeches, people entering and leaving, etc.  Its more than just your ambiance and score.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue is clean and crisp.  It also features a wide range of dynamics, volumes and speaker placement.

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Extras 

This release comes with a handy slipcover and an UltraViolet code for the film.

Behind The Scenes (HD, 26:22) – A pretty long, very EPK, behind the scenes look at some of the scenes being filmed.

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Summary 

While I do think this is a good movie, it’s definitely of the rental/HD stream variety.  Lionsgate delivers a strong presentation of the film, but the extras lack and are a bit ho hum.  Though, if the price goes down some, I definitely think its worth picking up.  For ownership as of “right here right now”, I’m not sure the audience that I would recommend buying it to.  I do recommend seeing it though.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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