BLOOD (2013)

9 out 0f 10

Release Date: 31st May 2013

Director: Nick Murphy (The Awakening)

Cast: Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham, Mark Strong, Ben Crompton, Natasha Little, Zoe Tapper, Naomi Battrick, Sandra Voe, Stuart McQuarrie, Patrick Hurd-Wood with Adrian Edmondson and Brian Cox

Writer: Bill Gallagher

Trailer: BLOOD

Blood is an extremely well constructed, acted and paced drama.  Its a  lot more than a regulation police procedural because it contains that all too elusive element missing from a lot of British movies these days, a beating heart.  A dynasty of police men; two brothers, Joe (PAUL BETTANY – GANGSTER NO. 1) and Chrissie (STEPHEN GRAHAM – THIS IS ENGLAND)and their retired father, Lenny (BRIAN COX – THE BOXER) hold vigil over a remote town on The Wirral (where nobody has a Liverpudlian accent).  When a teenage girl is found murdered in a local playground all suspicion falls on local born again Christian and reformed pervert, Jason Bulegh (BEN CROMPTON – GAME OF THRONES).  The past is ever present and the pressures to prevent history repeating itself push the brothers to perform an unthinkable act. With another equally competent yet aloof cop on the case, Seymour (MARK STRONG – WELCOME TO THE PUNCH) the sheer amount of guilt and confusion is destined to lead to some overdue pain and suffering.  The overbearing presence of Joe and Chrissie’s alzheimer’s afflicted father Lenny will also lead to bottled up secrets being spilled.

Blood is a less who-dunn-it than a can-they-keep-quiet-forever.  Some secrets are so terrible that they do need to be taken to the grave and yet in movie land, where life is cheap as a rule and murders go unsolved all the time, a single death on your hands weighs incredibly just like it would in plain old reality. Blood deals with the very real concerns of keeping tabs on your guilt, looking out for those who are complicit and keeping your sanity intact.  In a very real way this tackles the trauma of trying to keep such horrific secrets buried from those you love and making them stay there for a very long time.  The brothers make such a colossal but realistic mistake (spoilers are in the trailer) that you marvel at their stupidity, but their actions still ring true because the characters are so well drawn. Remarkably all of the actors deliver very convincing performances and in Paul Bettany‘s case this is a career best. The script convinces us that good people are capable of doing very bad things.  It also let’s us decide whether or not (if they had have been right) would their actions still have been right?  In keeping the past under wraps, only details break out in drunken conversations or half-remembered ramblings from Lenny. We are spared over literal flashbacks or an excess of voice over. The use of music is sparing so it’s left to the locations and Blood’s expert cinematographer to give us a sense of place.  In finding Hilbrea Island and it’s two smaller companions out in the River Dee estuary and the sad and desolate promenades of coastal Merseyside, Blood has a winning trump card. A great sense of location is key to a mystery and these places certainly enhance the picture. It is peculiarly free of scousers though (no one in the cast has a regional accent).

Blood impressed me because it kept it’s nerve right the way to the end and never compromised it’s hand in favour of giving the audience an easy ride. Our main protagonists are going to burn in hell (much like Mickey Rourke in Angel Heart), their fates spelt out from the second they accomplished their atrocious deed.  With some supernatural elements, Joe is haunted by a ghost / guilt manifested, that is the cherry on the cake. It’s a real shame that Blood only received a cursory release on UK cinemas because it leaves the majority of police films I’ve seen for dead in the plot, script and acting departments.  I’d goes as far as saying it’s one of the best films ever to be set in Merseyside and there’s a fair bit of competition too (not recent however).

9 out of 10 – Thoroughly recommended, despite the generic and forgettable title.

See Joe Pesci II’s review below

WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?

  • Paul Bettany: Avengers 2 (voice), Mortdecai, Transcendence, Iron Man 3 (voice), Avengers Assemble (voice), Priest (2011), Margin Call, The Tourist, Iron Man 2 (voice), Legion, Creation, The Young Victoria, Inkheart, The Secret Life Of Bees, Iron Man (voice), The Da Vinci Code, Firewall, Master and Commander- Far Side Of The World, Dogville, The Heart Of Me, A Beautiful Mind, A Knight’s Tale, Dead Babies, Gangster No.1, The Land Girls
  • Stephen Graham: Pirates of the Caribbean 5, Hyena, Boardwalk Empire (TV), Get Santa, Best Laid Plans (2012), This Is England 88 (TV), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, Texas Killing Fields, The Season Of The Witch, London Boulevard, The Crew, This Is England 86 (TV), Awaydays, Public Enemies, This Is England, Doghouse, The Damned Utd, Inkheart, Goal, Snatch, Coronation Street (TV), Downtime
  • Mark Strong: Grimsby, Kingsman – The Secret Service, The Imitation Game, Before I Go To Sleep, Welcome To The Punch, Zero Two Dark, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Kick Ass, The Guard, John Carter, Black Gold,  The Eagle, Robin Hood (2010), The Green Lantern,  The Way Back, Sherlock Holmes (2009), Rock-N-Rolla, Body Of Lies, Young Victoria, Flashbacks Of a Fool, Sunshine (2007), Stardust, Scenes Of a Sexual Nature, Revolver, Syriana, The Long Firm (TV), Heartlands, The Martins, Elephant Juice, Fever Pitch, Hotel (2001), Our Friends In The North (TV), Captives
  • Ben Crompton: Game Of Thrones (TV), Pramface (TV), 102 Dalmatians
  • Natasha Little: Welcome To The Punch, The Boys Are Back, Mr Nobody, Another Life, Greenfingers, Kevin and Perry Go Large, This Life (TV), The Clandestine Marriage
  • Zoe Tapper: Mr Selfridge (TV), Cheerful Weather For The WeddingThe Grind, Baseline, Survivors (TV), Stage Beauty
  • Sandra Voe: The Winter Guest, Breaking The Waves
  • Stuart McQuarrie: Hush
  • Patrick Hurd-Wood: Solomon Kane
  • Adrian Edmondson: The Comic Strip (TV), Holby City (TV), Guest House Paradiso, Bottom (TV), The Pope Must Die, Filty Rich & Catflap (TV), Eat The Rich, The Supergrass, The Young Ones (TV)
  • Brian Cox: The Anomaly, Believe, Her (voice), Red 2, The Campaign, Coriolanus, Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, The Veteran, Ironclad, Red, Fantastic Mr Fox (voice), The Escapist, The Water Horse, Zodiac, Red Eye, Match Point, The Bourne Supremacy, Troy, X Men 2, 25th Hour, Adaptation, The Ring, The Bourne Identity, Super Troopers, For The Love Of The Money, The Corruptor, Rushmore, Desperate Measures, The Boxer, Kiss The Girls, The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Glimmer Man, Chain Reaction, Braveheart, Rob Roy, Iron Will, Hidden Agenda, Manhunter
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One thought on “BLOOD (2013)

  1. BLOOD by Joe Pesci II

    Bad title good film. OK, it’s a film about family, and about murder so ‘BLOOD’ makes sense as a title, it just isn’t all that enticing. Though I suppose it’s better than calling it something like SWIFT JUSTICE or DEAD HONEST or FAMILY OF COPS (that last one is a real film and it’s got Charles Bronson in it).

    Paul Bettany plays a cop, whose only real flaw is that he isn’t a better cop (he keeps a photo of someone whose killer he didn’t find just to remind himself to be better at catching villains). Stephen Graham plays a cop with commitment issues, who happens to be Bettany’s brother (yes Stephen Graham and Paul Bettany are brothers – only in the movies!). Brian Cox was a cop, but has got Alzheimer’s, and he’s their dad. Mark Strong plays a cop, whose only flaw is that he has different sorts of commitment issues. He’s not related to the other cops.

    One day a corpse turns up (a young girl obviously) and the brothers set off to investigate. They soon find a likely suspect in the shape of god-bothering ex-flasher Ben Crompton, and then, half-accidentally, take justice into their own hands. The film follows their attempts to cover up their deed, and the paranoia and distrust which flows as a result.

    BLOOD (terrible title – apposite perhaps but a bit dull) is a cinematic re-imagining of a TV series from about a decade ago called Conviction (again a terrible though possibly apposite title). I missed that (in fact I’d never heard of it, what with its bland title) but I do wonder how the one has transformed into the other. BLOOD is a very, very good film, but it is a TV film (in the best sense of that much maligned label). The focus is very tight on one situation, and a handful of characters. Generally the film seems to successfully distil five or six hours of material into a movie structure: the film hints at huge swathes of story which were presumably dealt with at length in the series. In the film this all comes across as evidence of there being more for the characters to deal with than we see, which makes it all seem quite real. (It doesn’t always work, some characters are just to the sidelined.) And there’s only one chase, and that’s when Stephen Graham runs off down a corridor for no good reason, so the cameraman stays with Mark Strong, who’s actually doing some proper police work.

    There are a lot of themes and ideas floating around: the merits (or otherwise) of old school policing, families under pressure, memory, vengeance, deceit, the nature of murder. The film doesn’t hit you over the head with any of its ideas, but lets you have a little think about stuff whilst Bettany and Graham entangle themselves. (It is one of those films where there are lots of bleakly atmospheric shots of deserted beaches and the like.)

    There’s not a lot wrong with BLOOD (though the title is definitely wrong). The main problem as far as the film’s narrative is concerned is that Bettany and Graham are a bit rubbish when it comes to hiding their guilt, forever running off into corners to huddle and weep and look sheepish. But then again, how easy is it to hide guilt? (And you just know that Brian Cox’s failing mind is going to land them in trouble as well, but never mind.) The other problem is the film’s attitude towards women. There are five women in the film and they may be described as follows: corpse, girlfriend desperate for marriage, moaning wife, annoying daughter, dumb extra (dumb in that she has no dialogue even though she is mentioned several times as a potential partner for one of the main (male) characters). Natasha Little and Zoe Tapper do as much as they can to breathe life into the cardboard, and the director ‘requires’ the latter to leap out of bed naked for no reason I can think of. Meanwhile Bettany and Graham and Cox and Strong Crompton and even Adrian Edmondson (as a somewhat unfortunate key witness) get to act their little socks off in well written roles which may be amongst the best that they’ve had in years. This is particularly true for Mark Strong, a brilliant actor who is rarely allowed to shine (I mean, did you see WELCOME TO THE PUNCH? Can you remember anything about it?). Paul Bettany has rarely been better though you might wonder whether someone so clearly tumbling over the edge would be allowed in the police to start with. But his unravelling collapse is compelling, believable and, despite the character’s dumb actions, understandable.

    It’s one of those moody looking films, where all the policeman have cupboards stuffed with skeletons, and everything is moodily shot, and there’s a portentous orchestra on hand when things get gloomy; and yes, there are clichéd plot devices, and all the rest of it. It’s set on the Wirral, which is filmed in appropriately bleak and miserable tones. There’s not a lot of colour in BLOOD, except for a sudden slash of the title stuff at one point. And it has one of the best ghosts ever (not a real ghost, one of those ghosts which serve as a protagonist’s guilty conscience), which is expertly placed, and a good deal creepier than a lot of ghosts and ghouls in supernatural movies.

    BLOOD isn’t a life changing movie (and it’s certainly not a life enhancing one) but it has some of the purgative elements of tragedy, and creates very real characters with problems that are easy to empathise with (even if you are shouting ‘he can’t have done it you fools, you’re only ten minutes in!’). At its best it’s a grim commentary on the thin line between meaning well and doing bad, and on the corrosive nature and effects of guilt. I just wish they’d come up with a more interesting title.

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