"Blood Ties" is a largely engrossing drama set in 1974 that works better as an emotional study of brothers on flip sides of the law than as the Sidney Lumet-type crime saga it strives to be. Still, there's a heft to the proceedings that keeps us invested even when the story's various strands start to unravel.
Billy Crudup is superb as Frank, an upright New York cop whose older brother, Chris (Clive Owen), is released from prison after serving a lengthy stint for murder. It's a testy reunion for the mismatched pair as old wounds quickly resurface and Chris' foray into honest work proves short-lived. The upshot: Chris' return to his violent, criminal ways eventually forces Frank to choose between honoring his badge or his family.
Director Guillaume Canet ("Tell No One") co-wrote the script with James Gray ("We Own the Night") based on the 2008 French film "Les Liens du Sang" and the novel "Deux Freres: Flic & Truand." The new film effectively re-creates the look and sound of the era — and the vibe of '70s cop films — but allows a few too many key moments to occur off-screen. In addition, the movie's third act feels a tad disconnected from what comes before.
As for the film's eclectic, big-name cast, the usually fine Owen feels out of sync as a Brooklyn lowlife, as does Marion Cotillard (Canet's real-life partner) as Chris' ex-wife, an unlikely prostitute with a vague accent and some risible dialogue ("I ain't hookin' no more!"). Belgium's Matthias Schoenaerts ("Rust and Bone," which also co-starred Cotillard) fares better as the ex-con boyfriend of Frank's former flame (Zoe Saldana).
James Caan is also strong as the crusty, dying dad of Frank, Chris and their peacekeeping sister, Marie (Lili Taylor). But Mila Kunis, playing Chris' wary new girlfriend, doesn't quite nail the bridge-and-tunnel bit.
MPAA rating: R for violence, language, some sexual content and brief drug use.
Running time: 2 hours, 8 minutes.
Playing: At Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood; Laemmle's NoHo 7, North Hollywood; Laemmle's Monica 4, Santa Monica.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times