Once upon a time, two brothers called Bruno and Michel Papet wrote a book called Les Liens Du Sang. In 2008, this was adapted into a movie by Jacques Maillot called Les Liens Du Sang, and now, in 2013, actor-turned-director Guillaume Canet (of Tell No One and Little White Lies fame) has taken the French tale and transported it to 1970s New York for his English language debut, Blood Ties, casting Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, James Caan, Zoe Saldana and Marion Cotillard (his missus) in the process.
Owen plays Chris, an ex-con who's just come out of prison to be greeted by his grumpy cop brother Frank (Crudup) and his happy-but-not-long-for-this-world father (Caan). Chris' ex-wife, Monica (Cotillard), is a prositute and a drug user, somehow keeping their two kids in cereal and underwear despite her shaky situation.
Instead of making up with Monica, Chris begins a relationship with Natalie (Kunis), the cashier at the garage where Frank has managed to wangle Chris a job. Meanwhile Frank, as well as being a cop with a criminal brother living in his flat, also has personal problems, because the girl he's in love with, Vanessa (Saldana), has had a kid with another ex-con who he's just put away for six months.
It's only with all these pieces in play that Canet's opera can really begin, and with such a large cast and so many plot beats to chug through, it can feel a little like hard work watching Owen's Chris - prehaps unsurprisingly - revert to bad habits. Considering the movie clocks in at 144 minutes, Canet obviously enjoys taking his time over the many plot strands, concentrating primarily on the film-stealing fiery relationship between the brothers but allowing Zaldana some great scenes and Caan a few moments too. It's all enjoyable in its cops-and-robbers way, but there's little you won't have seen before, despite certain impressive flashes.
Kunis plays a mostly thankless role, Owen's Brooklyn accent wobbles slightly, and Canet chooses songs that seem a little blunt considering the situation - Money, Money, Money hits the speakers when there's, um, money involved - but there's plenty to dig into here for anyone who enjoys period police dramas, and it's worth the long run-time for a very satisfactory ending.