In BLOOD TIES the setting is New York, the time is 1974 and the problems faced by one family are more than they can surmount before the final credits role in this film. The story looks at one family that has many dysfunctional problems yet somehow bonds before the end of the film.
Billy Cruddup stars as Frank, a NYPD detective on the rise with more than one problem. His first revolves around his ex Vanessa (Zoe Saldana), a woman he gave up to their difference in race. Now married to a small time crook claiming to be straight, Frank still wants to be with her. Was it enough for him to send her husband to jail? That's a question never quite answered. His other more major concern is his brother Chris (Clive Owen). At one time close the two have drifted apart as Chris became more enmeshed in the criminal world, the opposite of his brother.
As the film opens Chris is being released from prison on a furlough program. While sister Marie (Lili Taylor) is glad to see him, Frank is a bit more hesitant. Chris has decided to be as straight as possible but between seeing his old friends and having problems at the day to day job he chose you know it won't be what he wants. Old habits are hard to break and eventually Chris is bound to return to his criminal escapades.
All of this doesn't bode well for Frank. With Chris living under his roof the rest of the NYPD doesn't look kindly on the situation. For Frank's family, in particular his ailing father (James Caan), their only hope is for Chris to do well. Unfortunately they also tend to turn a blind eye to anything that Chris might be involved in that isn't on the up and up.
Chris slowly gets back into his old ways. After a failed attempt at starting a new business, he gets involved with a crew of robbers. He visits his children and their mother Monica (Marion Cotillard), an ex-junkie who peddles her body on the street to support her and the kids. He meets a new flame where he works (Mila Kunis) and using the money he made robbing an armored car he marries and tries to set up a business, even if it is a whorehouse with his ex in charge.
For Frank things aren't going as well. Having Chris as his brother puts him on a bad path in the department. Getting back involved with Vanessa results in little more than her ex bringing violence into their lives or at least the threat of it. These two items combine to make the story of Frank one of family, both his blood relations and the family he chooses. The decisions Frank makes will affect both. Whether this is for the better or not isn't seen until the final scene of the film.
The movie captures the feel of New York 1974 with ease, never going for the most obvious depictions we normally get like Studio 54, instead offering us the small time clubs where low level criminals would hang out. In so doing they appear to be big time but in small locales. The costumer involved in this film deserves extra note, capturing the clothing of the ear without going overboard as well. That's the one thing that stands out when capturing the time line here. Not one piece goes over the top and yet it feels like not only the era the film takes place in but the movie has the look of films from that time.
There isn't a false note in any of the performances here. Cruddup does a great job portraying Frank as a man who wants to do the right thing and yet finds himself at odds because the one person he may have to place under arrest is his older brother. Owen does a great job as well making Chris a character who is willing to do bad things and yet tries to do the right thing at the same time. There is no way this can work and it's just a matter of time until things explode.
The movie never opened big, at least in this area, and from what I recall opened day and date on On Demand when it was released. With all the drek that is being released these days it's sad since this movie offered more drama and story than most coming out. Then again it sometimes feels like little more than explosions, CGI cartoons and sappy love stories are all that make the multiplexes these days. Let's hope that movies like this are paid enough attention that more are made and shown in theaters.
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