I may not be the only one that does this, but if there is a film that has enough actors in an ensemble that pique my interest and it does not appear on my radar when it comes out cinematically, I have a natural curiosity about it. And if Blood did come to my local cinema, I honestly do not remember it coming and/or going. Nevertheless, there were enough individual actors in it whom I like which inspired me to give the film a go and see what I was missing.
In a cinematic remake of the 2004 BBC miniseries Conviction, Blood is written by British television writer Bill Gallagher and directed by Nick Murphy (Priest) and his younger brother Chrissie (Stephen Graham, Fantastic Mr. Fox), a widower who is dealing with dementia. Joe and Chrissie are investigating the death of a young girl, particularly resonant for Joe as he has a daughter who is the approximate age of the victim. Their investigation circles around a man who has a history of crimes against children and whose apartment contains something from the victim. When Joe and Chrissie's attempt at a confession fails, they decide to take things into their own hands, and the result brings a fellow detective (Mark Strong, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) into the fold and the family in turmoil.
The core of the story is one that has been told countless times before and is likely to be retold many more times, in the vein of ‘Tell-Tale Heart.' Something dreadful occurs, and the guilt surrounding those actions haunt those who commit the crimes. Seeing this guilt consume Joe and Chrissie is compelling through the course of the film, and it helps that Bettany and Graham are up to the task. Their performances, along with those of Cox, Strong and Ben Crompton (Kill List) , who plays the suspect of the crimes, are all worthy of mention.
For as good as the acting is, the story that Blood tells has aspirations, but does not follow through them, and the result (combined with some directorial choices) do not help matters. The story tries to go into some depth surrounding Joe and Chrissie's relationship with their now reduced faculty father, but spends little time on it, and when this is reintroduced in the third act proves to be a swerve that proves to stretch the viewer's incredulity. Far more time is spend with Joe and Chrissie's immediate family (or in Chrissie's case, his fiancée) and that should have been the sole focus.
Additionally, the reintroduction of one of the cast members throughout the second and third acts is amateurish and not worthy of the performances the cast delivers. I would have respected the film a little more if Gallagher and Murphy gave themselves 10 more minutes to see out some of the things they touched upon briefly in Blood. To be clear, it is not a case of wanting to see more of Blood and regretting that it ended early; rather if the filmmaker is going to tell the story, one has to be comfortable with the final product, and this one feels incomplete.
I liked watching Bettany, Graham, Strong and Cox in Blood and hope to see them in films together again at some point down the road. But I think it is easy to enjoy the performances while dread the storytelling, and that is what the epitaph of the film will be, long after the ensemble goes onto other (and hopefully better) projects.
Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and in high definition using the AVC codec, Blood is appropriately dour considering its topic, and it is handled nicely in the image with many of the film's darker moments replicated nicely. Black levels are deep and on near-inky status, while providing a nice contrast in moments when car headlights set the tone in a scene. In more normally lit moments, flesh tones and clothing looks decent though lacking a consistent level of detail in the foreground and background. Solid though unspectacular viewing.
The DTS HD-MA 5.1 surround the film has does pretty much what it is called upon to do which sadly is not all that much. The film lacks any sustained or frequent moments of channel panning or directional effects, though some moments where the detectives are inside an abandoned theater while a teenager with a bullhorn outside almost teasing them makes for a convincing moment. On the other side, dialogue tends to be a touch inconsistent and requires more compensation than expected. It was not a huge distraction, but enough to mention.
Blood has some interesting things going on and has the right people doing them, but it takes a lot to get over the main faults the film has, and they distract from a story which could have been an above average production. Technically, the film is not horrible, though it tends to lack anything in the supplement department. Ultimately it is a fascinating rental option, though very little else is going on with it.