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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