Friday 12 October 2012

London Film Festival Review: Blood (dir. Murphy)

The usually reliable Paul Bettany and Stephen Graham compete to see who can give the worst performance in Blood, a startlingly inept cop-thriller-cum-family-angst-fest directed by Nick Murphy. The contest comes out at about a tie. Playing police officer brothers who end up killing a suspect while trying to force a confession from him, and then hide the body to cover their tracks, the pair indulge in more hilariously tortured, overwrought emoting than has been seen on screen for quite a while.

A good deal of the blame must be laid at Murphy’s door it must be said. Unlike many people, I rather enjoyed the director’s debut film, The Awakening, finding it to be a stylish, intriguing ghost story that managed to evoke The Innocents and The Others without getting bogged down in a tedious game of spot-the-homage.

Here, though, the director never seems to be in control of the material and the actors are left horribly exposed. Blood is dispiritingly generic from the get-go, but it turns dumber and more risible as it goes along. Plot gears grind; Bill Gallagher’s dialogue clunks unmercifully. Adapted from Gallagher's own 2004 BBC mini-series Conviction, the film aspires to be about changes in approaches to policing - pitting the unscrupulous, strong-arm tactics of the brothers’ retired cop father (Brian Cox) against the mature approach represented by Mark Strong’s sergeant - but the tactics employed are so feeble that the argument never really gets off the ground.

Choking on tough-guy discourse of the “I’ll make you sorry your mother ever opened her legs” variety, Brian Cox is over-ripe as the ailing paterfamilias. Natasha Little and Zoe Tapper are squandered in small roles, and only Mark Strong manages to keep his dignity. A waste of a lot of talented people, Blood is an embarrassingly poor effort all round.

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