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CANNES 2013 Out of Competition / France

Blood Ties: Redemption song to a familiar tune

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- Guillaume Canet delivers a remake under the influence, presented out of competition on the Croisette

Blood Ties: Redemption song to a familiar tune

Blood Ties [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
 is a remake of a French film of the same name made in 2008 by Jacques Maillot. As an actor, Guillaume Canet played one of the main roles and today he finds himself on the other side of the camera, adapting this story to the American language, territory, and format. The film is presented out of competition and has the advantage of offering the 66th Cannes Film Festival a prestigious red carpet with its high-flying cast. Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, James Caan, Mila Kunis, Matthias Schoenaerts, Zoe Saldana, as well as the director’s partner, Marion Cotillard, form a constellation of characters reminiscent of films by a certain James Gray, also invited to the party as he co-wrote the film with Guillaume Canet and coproduced it with Alain Attal (Polisse [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Maïwenn
film profile
]
) of Les Productions du Trésor.

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There is much to be said about – and in – this work, as Guillaume Canet over-saturates his fourth film as a director with references and paradigms that American cinema has produced more or less successfully since the '70s. It is, in fact, in 1974 that Blood Ties begins. Chris (Clive Owen) is released after a long spell in jail and moves into the home of his brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), who had joined the New York police. Frank hopes that Chris has changed, but between his ex, a prostitute and drug addict (Marion Cotillard), and people from his past who present him with new criminal opportunities, Chris falls back into the trap and drags down his family, friends and their loved ones with him.

Beyond the evident question of blood relationships, Blood Ties is a predictable 144-minute long journey towards redemption. The multitude of characters and their relatively conventional interactions only brings a moderate level of intensity to a narrative that often merely strings together tributes like a necessary rite of passage (the chase with skidding cars, a shot in the back, painful flashbacks, the holiday movie watched alone with a projector...). Guillaume Canet is clearly under the influence of Sidney Lumet (Serpico), William Friedkin (French Connection) and Brian De Palma (Carlito’s Way) and tends to underpin his narration with elements from Heat (Michael Mann) and The Town (Ben Affleck), with his real blood ties dissolving into James Gray's fraternal trilogy (Little OdessaThe YardsWe Own the Night).

The European and American actors remain convincing after being put through a linguistic grinder, but the directing, as well as the overall staging, lacks its own colour. The original soundtrack is wheezy and the level of cinematography by Christophe Offenstein (Tell No One [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) also sometimes verges on imitation. All in all, Blood Ties seems more like an exercise in style rather an addition to rare original adaptations. We would have preferred a film with more subtlety and stylishness that had not limited itself to copying a genre from the far side of the Atlantic, where the film should meet with measured success.

(Translated from French)

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