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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Blood Ties review: same old New York groove

Blood Ties yellow light

Some excellent performances — by Clive Owen and Billy Crudup — can’t disguise the fact that there’s absolutely nothing here we haven’t seen too many times before.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): this looked really really familiar

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Dear god, poor Zoe Saldana. Is she doomed to forever be The Girl, the put-upon yet noble yet just-trying-to-get-by woman in sprawling tales of supposedly morally complicated men doing bad things to the other men they have complicated relationships with? I mean, she just did this in Out of the Furnace, and here she is again, in yet another story of brothers on opposite sides of the law whose connection — of blood and honor — is sorely tested by the criminal behavior of one of them. *grrr* This time it’s New York City in 1974, and Clive Owen (Shadow Dancer) has just gotten out of prison for whatever his last felony was, and there is his brother, Billy Crudup (Eat Pray Love), NYPD, to meet him. (Also present is Lili Taylor [The Conjuring] as their sister, who literally has nothing at all to do in this two-hour-plus flick except scold her brothers and James Caan [That’s My Boy], as their father, to behave themselves over Thanksgiving dinner.) Clive of course drifts back into criminality even after vowing to go straight; Billy is trying to make his name as a detective, but a convict brother doesn’t help, nor does his busting of Zoe’s current man (Matthias Schoenaerts [“Death of a Shadow”], whose 1974 NYC accent is perfect) so that he can pursue her and try to reignite their previous boinking. Director Guillaume Canet wrote the screenplay with James Gray (We Own the Night), based on a true French story, and he mounts an incredibly evocative re-creation of 1970s New York City — even the sunlight looks right, according to my childhood memories of the place and time — but that’s the best thing, by far, in this been-there, done-that tale. It’s tough even to get excited by the excellent performances — Owen is fantastic, and Crudup is a god, as always — because there’s absolutely nothing here we haven’t seen too many times before. Time to find some new stories to tell, guys.

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Blood Ties (2014)
US/Can release: Mar 21 2014 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: Aug 15 2014

MPAA: rated R for violence, pervasive language, some sexual content and brief drug use
BBFC: rated 15 (strong language, violence, sex, drug use)

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • bronxbee

    and certainly zoe could get a lot more to do in the Star Trek reboots…

  • RogerBW

    Nah, Saldana’s 35 already; I’m surprised she’s still getting cast as the Hot Chick. Must have a good agent.

    But I agree, I was never terribly excited by this story, and I’m very bored with it now.

  • Chris

    Actually, her role in this film is not so different than her role in Star Trek (or any other film she did)! is basically the same thing: the annoying girlfriend who doesn’t do nothing interesting in the whole film besides whining, screaming and crying, doesn’t have a life of her own and is only there for the pleasure of the male lead.

    Zoe is a crappy actress anyway, is not like she deserves something better.

  • Seriously? She doesn’t deserve better?

  • Tonio Kruger

    Ms. Saldona is hardly my favorite actress either but she hardly deserves to be counted out at this stage of the game, no matter what you may think of her acting. After all, history is full of actresses ranging from Katharine Hepburn to Lake Bell, who have gotten notoriously bad reviews in their early films, only to redeem themselves later. Even celebrated actress Helen Mirren had some astoundingly dumb lines to deal with in her first movie Excalibur — though to be fair, I thought she did the best she could with an at best mediocre script.

    Plus every time someone criticizes an actress of color, I can’t help being haunted by something Whoopi Goldberg once said in an interview when she was defending the rather dubious choices she had made in her acting career and she noted that she didn’t necessarily pick the best roles available, she just picked the best of the roles that were made available to her. And in a world where even Barbara Streisand and Robert De Niro have trouble finding good movie roles, I have trouble believing that Ms. Saldona is in a better situation than Ms. Streisand and Mr. De Niro.

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