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British Film Review: Blood
Review By Jane Foster
Great acting, but blood brothers? Really?
The opening of ‘Blood’ is poignant and well done. A 12 year old Girl is found brutally stabbed, laid out in the centre of town. Emotive, visual acting by the two main characters, two cops, Joe, played with gritty class by Paul Bettany and Chrissie, played with great sincerity, by Stephen Graham, this set up promises that there is a dark crime drama to follow. The script, by well- loved and experienced writer Bill Gallagher, is well crafted and professional, and inspired by the TV series ‘Conviction’
During the next twenty minutes of set up, where we meet the family of Police and the main characters family, suspicion for the murder falls squarely on mentally unstable Jason Buleigh, played well by Ben Crompton. However, it’s about now that the film starts to falter. However well directed by the award winning Nick Murphy, and well framed and ably lit by George Richmond, the other components that go to make up what should be a good film, fail. The story line, which is meant to be about blood ties in a family of Policemen, simply doesn’t seem right, and it’s tricky to analyse why. Good acting, shooting, directing, writing… What could possibly be amiss? However, there is a definite lack of continuity, for this is a film that cannot decide what it wants to be. It is also a film that even when one scene is working well, the next somehow jars the audience out of what should be an absorbing dramatic ride.
Big problems are the casting, the number of characters and the genre mix, and also, to a minor extent, wardrobe/continuity. The film feels crammed: ‘setting up’ and ‘signifying’ all the family relationships is all good stuff, but with only 92 minutes to do this – it fails. We are left with a mish-mash of badly placed scenes with friends, relatives and co-workers, all suffering from what feels like over development, too many producers’ notes, or maybe too many different ideas about what the film should be between the Producers, Director and Actors. This is not helped by the casting, which aside from being totally unbelievable (and funny) is confusing.
It’s so blatantly bad that it takes until about thirty minutes in for those unaware of the TV series, to twig that the two main characters are brothers. A very big shame given the brilliant talent attached, which will undoubtedly pull in an audience. Paul Bettany is 6ft 3” according to his IMDB page – He is fair, athletic, slim and distinctly good looking in a classic way. We are then expected to believe that his full brother, played by Stephen Graham, is dark, softly featured and neatly built like an Italian tenor, and 5ft 5.5”. Odd! And it does not help that Paul’s onscreen wife and daughter are too perfectly cast to try to counteract the enormous casting gaff elsewhere. Then, enter Dad, played by the brilliant, but similarly compact Brian Cox, and the audience is left with a burning desire to know what the brothers Mother looked like, instead of what is happening next in the plot. This casting also makes Joe stand out so much, that the audience cannot but help notice that he goes from perfectly groomed, well –styled- man-about- town-successful- Policeman, to drunken messy slob in about twenty minutes flat. This is unsubtle and theatrical styling and wardrobe which makes Joe’s character seem two dimensional, which is a shame because Paul Bettany’s acting is brilliant!
Last, although very much granted that there is some brilliant acting from the leads, good direction and writing, and moments of high drama, all shot very well, the genre/style mix is uncomfortable. Flashbacks to the man Joe accidentally kills, haunting him in the present, imply a moral dilemma and supernatural tone, but because it’s never really explored it just feels ‘plonked’ in for effect, into what is, a crime drama with a patchy attempt at family drama. Again, this smacks of over development, or, those in production not being in harmony, or simply not good enough. This has led to a film that misses the mark when it shouldn’t have, and has a patchy momentum. However, with such good acting, it is worth a look, but only as a late night fare, after a take away and a bottle of wine.
Blood is in UK cinemas 31st May 2013
Jane A Foster
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