Blood Ties Blu-ray Review
James Gray's latest crime drama provides more of the same brooding family feuds
Blood Ties Blu-ray Film Review
Filmmaker James Gray has made a name for himself crafting rich, gritty crime dramas almost universally focussing on families torn apart by members who undertake a life of crime.Indeed it seems like quite a natural choice for him to opt to adapt the 2008 French film, Les liens du sang – which basically translates to Blood Ties – as it is, essentially, right up his street. The story focuses on a veteran criminal released from prison after serving 9 years for murder, who finds it impossible to go straight and soon slips back into his criminal ways, much to the chagrin of his New York cop brother. Fans of Gray’s work – most notably The Yards and We Own the Night – will immediately wonder whether they’ve heard all this before, particularly in the latter, an 80s-set piece which sees Joaquim Phoenix’s nightclub owner butting heads with his NYC cop brother, played by Mark Wahlberg, who doesn’t like the circles he’s running in. So, despite the best efforts by Director Guillaume Canet – who made the taut 2006 thriller Tell No One, the end result is somewhat cursed by Gray’s influenceThe viewer is left feeling that the entire film is little more than a retread of an overly familiar story, done numerous times before, even by Gray himself. The 70s setting feels surprisingly authentic, and the ensemble cast that include Billy Crudup (Watchmen), an out-of-place Mila Kunis (Black Swan) and the director’s wife, Academy Award-winner Marion Cotillard (Inception), as well as Zoe Saldana (Out of the Furnace), Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone), and James Caan (The Yards) all commit to their respective roles wholeheartedly, but it’s perhaps only Clive Owen’s tough-as-nails recidivist who stands out, delivering some of his most distinctive work in years, and reminding us of everything he’s capable of.
Blood Ties Blu-ray Picture QualityBlood Ties reaches UK shores on a Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. Although a digitally-shot film, some lengths have been gone to in order to ensure that it has a suitably gritty, period feel; the 70s setting reflected in a yellow-brown tinge, and the image given a softer look around the edges which, whilst not robbing the content of any image detail, does give it a suitably aged feel.
The period is probably the biggest thing that distinguishes this film from many of Gray’s earlier’s stories, and this disc presents the authentic 70s setting well.
Detail is generally very good indeed, particularly during the indoor or daytime sequences, with no signs of any digital defects or anomalies to detract from the image quality. The colour scheme has been obviously affected by the yellow-dominant strain which skews the whole palette, but also sees some tones looking less natural than perhaps you’d have hoped for; skin tones in particular suffer during a few scenes, however it always feels in-line with the style of the piece, even if it occasionally feels like that style has gone a smidge too far. Black levels are reasonably strong and round out a good presentation that’s perhaps not as good as you’d expect from a modern release, but still does a decent enough job with the material.
Blood Ties Blu-ray Sound QualityThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is a strong affair, promoting the material – which blends angry family confrontations, tense stand-offs, and brooding character development – really quite well indeed, despite the fact that there’s nothing distinctly bombastic in this offering.
Solid, frequently very good, but never quite demo-worthy, the accompanying track does a decent enough job with the material.
Dialogue gets clear and coherent presentation across the fronts and centre channels, keenly delivered; effects set the mood and give an authentic atmosphere when it comes to the bustling indoor scenes and traffic-based exteriors shots, as well as delivering a harsher, more punchy impact during the shootouts, raids and robberies, as well as the car chase. The score too injects some life into the proceedings, and gets a decent presentation across the array, leaving this a very good – though far from outstanding – audio presentation.
Blood Ties Blu-ray ExtrasJust a single Behind the Scenes Featurette.
Blood Ties Blu-ray VerdictAlthough screened back in Cannes last year, Blood Ties has taken a long time to filter to the States, and even longer to make it to the UK, reaching global non-Cannes audiences in a significantly truncated form that runs almost 20 minutes shorter than the original cut. There is a chance that the longer cut helps distinguish the substance of the film from its fairly generic dime-a-dozen familiarity, but, considering that it is fairly hard to obtain an English-friendly copy, we have to make do with this.
With some decent setpieces, this is still a diluted, 70s version of Gray’s We Own the Night, only without the moody, oppressive atmosphere, and just one standout performance.
This Region B-locked UK release promotes the movie with solid video and audio, and a single extra, leaving this a decent enough purchase for fans of the film, particularly when the only available release of the longer original cut is the French release, which sports fixed French subtitles even with its native English language track.
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