Blood Loses Itself in Gulfs of Melodramatic Angst


Blood wants to be a Greek tragedy about family loyalties, guilt, and the fall of a dynasty, but the characters never manage to connect with one another, separated by gulfs of melodramatic angst and the plot demands of a boringly unspooled police procedural. Joe and Chrissie Fairburn (Paul Bettany and Stephen Graham) are brothers who followed in the footsteps of their cop father, Lenny (Brian Cox), a heavy-handed tyrant now felled by cognitive dementia. Graham, Boardwalk Empire‘s Al Capone, animates Chrissie with sincerity and a palpable affection for his girlfriend, but Bettany and Cox are alienated from everyone else in the film by the psychological isolation of their characters. They’re all fine actors, but so genetically dissimilar that a third brother played by a horse wouldn’t stretch the visual implausibility. Well, not by much. When a young girl is stabbed to death, they zero in on a religious loner whose semi-coherent ravings implicate him in the murder. He’s released for lack of evidence, and the zealous Joe is driven to an extralegal kidnapping and interrogation that escalates to the suspect’s violent death. Chrissie and Joe are subsequently plagued by guilt and its human manifestation—fellow cop Robert (Mark Strong), who suspects the brothers know something about the man’s disappearance. When the real killer is found and arrested, Chrissie can barely restrain himself from confessing everything. And Joe, who piles up ever greater misdeeds in order to conceal the murder, has preposterous hallucinatory conversations with the dead man. This indifferently depicted contrivance is the literal realization of the film’s Poe-like contention, voiced by Robert, that the murderers who get away with it are the most tormented.

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