The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Blood is just good enough to make me wish it was better. The film, a British export, has a phenomenal cast and a gripping premise. In fact, these actors in this plot sounds like a can't-miss. But Blood, while occasionally effective, is ultimately hindered by some incomplete storytelling and a refusal to go as deep as it should.

Paul Bettany plays Joe Fairburn, a cop who works alongside his brother Chrissie (Stephen Graham). When a young girl is brutally murdered, the brothers begin looking for possible suspects. The trail leads them to Jason Buleigh (played by Game of Thrones' Ben Crompton), a known local pervert. Buleigh doesn't confess to the crime, but he doesn't exactly deny it either. One night, Joe and Chrissie go out drinking, then decide to coerce a confession out of Buleigh. Joe loses his cool and does something unconscionable. The rest of the film details how he attempts to live with himself in the wake of this action and its subsequent consequences. Brian Cox plays the Fairburn brothers' dad, a former police chief now stricken with dementia. Joe thinks he might be able to offer some guidance, provided he can be caught in a rare period of being clear. Meanwhile, another cop, Robert Seymour (Mark Strong), begins to suspect that Joe's investigation of the crime is not on the up-and-up.

As you'd expect, the performances in Blood are excellent. Paul Bettany is unafraid to mine the emotional depths of Joe Fairburn. The actor, always a specialist in bringing out a character's inner turmoil, shows how a snap decision ends up haunting Joe, turning his life into an anguished mess. He also conveys inner conflict as Joe tries to prevent his deeds from being exposed, knowing it makes him no better than the criminals he typically nabs. Stephen Graham is just as good. Chrissie is an innocent bystander until he decides not to say anything, at which point he becomes an accomplice. Graham gets an amazing breakdown scene, as Chrissie faces the fact that he may have sold his own soul to help his brother. For his part, Mark Strong does a nice job underplaying the suspicious Seymour. Rather than clamping down on Joe, Strong has him tighten the screws more subtly, so we can see that Seymour respects his colleague, even while doubting his integrity.

The problem is not with the actors, it's with the way the film is put together. Blood is based on a six-episode miniseries called Conviction, and you can really feel how it's been condensed into a mere ninety-two minutes. For instance, there are intimations of a rivalry between the brothers, possibly fueled by their father, but this is never explored to any degree that makes an impact. It's a suggestion and nothing more. Similarly, there's a brief indication that Joe's anger and intense desire to catch the killer stems from a bad experience with a previous case, yet we never hear the specifics of it. He simply holds up a picture and yells that it's such-and-such a case all over again. Blood would have benefited from a lot more detail in these areas. It would have given more emotional weight not only to Joe's personal journey but also to his relationship with his brother.

Blood may be worth a look for fans of the actors, yet it's never as probing or powerful as it wants to be. Simply put, the film is too short. Perhaps director Nick Murphy thought he was tightening the pace. This is, at heart, an interior story, though; it doesn't need tightness so much as it needs specificity, and there just isn't enough of that to pay off in a satisfactory manner. Not a bad film, but certainly a missed opportunity.

( 1/2 out of four)

Blood is unrated R but contains violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 32 minutes.

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