Oscar winner Marion Cotillard and her partner, French actor and director Guillaume Canet, teamed up for the all-star “Blood Ties” which premiered on Monday in Cannes but faced audiences’ stony silence after high hopes for the picture.
The film features one of the most high-wattage casts of the festival including Clive Owen, James Caan, Billy Crudup, Zoe Saldana, Mila Kunis and Lili Taylor.
And the hard-boiled screenplay by Canet and New York-based director James Gray, another Cannes favourite who will unveil “The Immigrant” starring Cotillard in the competition, sparked major buzz in the run-up to the event.
“Blood Ties” is a remake of a 2008 French film in which Canet also starred, with the action transposed to the mean streets of 1970s pre-gentrification Brooklyn.
It tells the story of Frank (Crudup), a cop whose brother Chris (Owen) has just been released from prison after 12 years on a murder rap.
Chris aims to get back on the straight-and-narrow but is quickly sucked back in to the life of crime.
Cash starts running low when his new wife (Kunis) becomes pregnant and the mother of his two other children (Cotillard), spirals into drugs and prostitution.
Chris plots a bank-truck heist and when Frank catches wind of it, he must choose between his family loyalties and his police badge.
A press preview of the two-and-a-half-hour-long picture met with crushing indifference and reviewers blasted a clunky story with uneven performances.
Canet, who became the youngest director to capture a Cesar, France’s Oscar, for the 2006 thriller “Tell No One”, said he found inspiration from the movies of Martin Scorsese and John Cassavetes.
“I got a lot of offers from Hollywood after ‘Tell No One’ and it gave me the desire to make a film in English with English-speaking actors,” he said.
“I didn’t want it to be a studio-type film, I found it difficult to work on a film with a lot of pressure on me. I wanted a project that I’d be in charge of myself.”
Cotillard said working with Canet in the United States instead of Europe had been a bit odd for the couple.
“He knows how to work with actors and he has a great respect for them,” she said of Canet.
“It was rather strange because we’d often speak in English together but we really fed off the energy of the American experience.”
Owen’s performance drew more positive reviews than the film itself.
“For me the thing that was really great was the complexity of all the relationships in the movie and there was something I was really attracted to about the idea that these two brothers were inextricably linked together and however difficult things got it was very, very hard for them to pull apart,” he said.
“There just seemed to be an awful lot to play with from the acting point of view.”
But most critics said the movie simply failed to deliver.
“If there is any movie this year at Cannes that is absolutely brimming with promise on paper, it’s Guillaume Canet’s ‘Blood Ties’,” industry website Indiewire wrote.
“[But] while ‘Blood Ties’ isn’t a disaster, it’s certainly a mess, a sprawling crime saga that endeavours to evoke the great character-driven movies of the 1970s, but never quite lives up to its epic scope.”
Variety agreed, calling it “a sluggish, dramatically undernourished saga with limited audience appeal”.
However a reviewer for London’s daily Guardian weighed in with a more positive review, giving it three out of five stars.
“A boisterous portrait of fraternal rivalry that reduces every festive family gathering to a scene-chewing crime scene,” he said.
“I’m not convinced that this hoary, hackneyed old cop-opera is entirely to be trusted either, although it is served with such relish that the fun proves infectious.”
“Blood Ties” screened out of competition at the festival, which wrapped up on Sunday