Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

Nick Murphy, director of The Awakening, likes his crime scenes bleak and windswept, as his new cop thriller Blood is set in a small coastal town in England where the wind howls across a lonely shoreline overlooked by two ominous, looming islands that are cut off from the mainland during high tide. These islands form the key motif of the narrative, a source of mystery and power, imbued with legends, foreshadowing the dark events to follow and ultimately the scene of much violence and despair. Its a arresting choice of location that is supplemented by a moody colour pallette and lighting. Sadly these elements are the only really strong ingredients in the meal served up here.

Paul Bettany plays Detective Joe Fairburn, a 40-something driven police detective working alongside his younger and more chirpy brother Chrissie (Stephen Graham). Paul's married with kids, Chrissie is chasing an on and off girlfriend, and all generally seems well at home and in the precinct, where they work alongside the more centred and austere senior detective Seymour (Mark Strong).

We soon learn, however, that the brothers live in the shadow of their hulking father Lenny (Brian Cox), the former chief of police and a local legend, who is now in the downward slope of his battle with Alzheimer’s. When he isn't wandering into the precinct by accident, Lenny is gruffly haranguing his sons and anyone in earshot with tales of the old days when cops were unburdened by bureaucracy and human rights legislation, and could get on with cracking some skulls out on the islands in order to get the confessions to close the cases. Several characters repeatedly dismiss these as Alzheimer's-afflicted ramblings, but it's a pretty clear signal to us that one or more of the sons might end up being a chip off the old block in this tale - while failing to heed Lenny's final warning of “Don't f*ck it up”.

Indeed, before long the brutal murder of a young girl is pushing the two brothers towards embracing Lenny's tactics. Joe’s disgust about the case gives way to more dangerous emotions as the prime suspect, local church worker and loner Jason Buleigh (Ben Crompton), fails to break under their questioning. After a night of heavy boozing, Joe and Chrissie decide to emulate their father and take Jason out to the islands. The rest of the film's narrative spools out the moral collapse of this cop family's legacy as the brothers try to emotionally and physically hide and process their guilt, while the dogged Seymour's natural cop instincts start pushing him towards investigating one of his own.

Though pitched as a serious piece of work exploring issues of morality, family ties and masculinity, Blood is a case of a pretty good cast placed in an intriguing landscape, but ultimately let down by material that doesn't rise to the challenge. There simply isn't anything here that will surprise anyone who is a veteran of cop films, with characters' actions, plot twists, misdirections and revelations quite easy to see coming.

Too much character development feels either unearned or foreshadowed too obviously - be it Bettany's subsequent medley of increasingly desperate actions or the fact that Chrissie, on a parallel track, turns out to be the 'weak' one of the two. The plot is also burdened with elements that feel underused or a distraction, such as the the fact that Bettany's character starts hallucinating, or the hints of a backstory about Strong's character, who isn't really on screen enough for this to feel relevant. Despite a striking location, the cinematography, with the portentous visual cues and motifs, is also laid on a little thick - as if Murphy had spent too much time with Scandinavian box sets. A missed opportunity.

Reviewed on: 12 Oct 2012
Share this with others on...
A police detective's disgust at the murder of a young girl leads him to make dangerous decisions.
Amazon link

Read more Blood reviews:

Anton Bitel ***1/2

Director: Nick Murphy

Writer: Bill Gallagher

Starring: Paul Bettany, Mark Strong, Brian Cox

Year: 2012

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: UK

Search database:

If you like this, try:

Infernal Affairs
Pride And Glory