Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tragedy -- or the nearest thing to it -- in Nick Murphy's fine police drama, BLOOD

We don't see much these days that qualifies as tragedy or even comes close to that definition. Which makes the U.S. theatrical debut of BLOOD -- a 2012 film from director Nick Murphy (shown below), who gave us one of 2011's better ghost stories, The Awakening -- all the more newsworthy.

This unrelenting British movie features a superlative cast, with each member playing at the top of his game. Blood, which is all about family, also involves some of that famous red stuff, yet the meaning of the film's title cuts pretty equally in both directions.

The story concerns a family of British policemen in a small coastal town: a father slowly losing out to dementia (Brian Cox) and his two sons -- one played by Paul Bettany, who has a wife and daughter; the other by Stephen Graham, who has a steady girlfriend in tow.

Mr. Graham (above) remains generally unsung -- on these shores, anyway -- but he's a fine actor, and this film gives him the best role he's had in some time. Ditto Mr. Bettany, below, who often falls into showy performances (or maybe they're just showy roles in showy films). Here he does nothing more than is necessary and absolutely nails his character -- and us.

As usual, however, it's Mark Strong (below), clearly one of the more versatile of the newer crop of British actors, who comes off as most memorable. If you compare just three of Strong's recent performances -- in Welcome to the Punch, The Guard, and Tinker Tailor Solider Spy -- to this one, you'll discover a fellow of surprising strengths as an actor. Here, as the quiet, very focused outsider on the police force, he brings a lovely subtlety and deep feeling to his role.

What makes Blood approach the tragic level is how the misdeeds of the males in this proud and arrogant family come home to roost, along with all the guilt and frustration that go with them. How the actions of the two brothers resonate painfully throughout their families, the police force and the town they serve, as well as the irony of who hastens their downfall and how, makes for a movie that is extremely brooding and bleak, though rich in fine characterization.

This film is evidently a kind of telescoped remake of a British TV series from 2004 called Conviction, which I have not seen. Though more could certainly be packed into six hours than in the 92 minutes shown here, I must say that this hour-and-a-half proves pretty spectacular on its own shortened terms.

Blood, from RLJ Entertainment, opens this Friday, August 9, exclusively at AMC theaters in major cities across the country: in Atlanta at the Colonial 18, in Chicago at the Streets of Woodfield 20, in Dallas at the Grapevine Mills 30, in Detroit at the Forum 30, in Houston at the Studio 30, in Kansas City at the Studio 30 with IMAX and Dine-in Theatres, in L.A. at the Burbank Town Center 8, in NYC at the Empire 25, in Philadelphia at the Cherry Hill 24, and in Seattle at the Loews Oak Tree. Meanwhile, the film has also been available via VOD since July 11.

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