Director: Nick Murphy
Cast: Paul Bettany, Stephen Graham, Brian Cox, Mark Strong
Paul Bettany walks into a room. It’s a police station. He’s a policeman, called Joe. But there’s something that’s not quite right about the whole thing – the vibrant greys of the concrete walls, the strong contrasts in the lighting, the fact that Bettany looks like he could rip somebody’s face off any minute. It’s an ordinary room, but everything feels heightened.
That’s because Nick Murphy is behind the camera. The director of The Awakening gave his debut flick a wonderfully eerie atmosphere by setting the horror in a washed-out daytime. Here, he retains that knack for escalating things just a fraction – just enough to keep you unsettled.
Joe and his younger brother Chrissie (Graham) find themselves equally on edge after they take drastic action to find a killer of a young local girl. Struggling to live up to their father’s reputation – once the department’s ball-busting chief, their dad (Cox) now sits at home with Alzheimer’s – they gradually unravel under a claustrophobic mix of guilt, anger and the watchful eye of straight-laced colleague Robert (Strong).
It all unfolds in the sadly predictable manner of a TV drama (the script is based on 2004 series Conviction) but the familiar Brit crime tropes are given a welcome touch of class by the fantastic cast. Stephen Graham is moving as Joe’s panicking sidekick, Strong is quietly stoic while the crumpled presence of Brian Cox introduces a sharp pang of sadness.
But the film is elevated most of all by Paul Bettany. Stomping around in a long trenchcoat like Columbo’s crazy cousin, he’s a wonderfully volatile presence; you never know when he’s going to start shouting at someone, get drunk or simply smack a guy with a spade. His gradually imploding man is one of the most intense roles of his career.
Murphy laps up the melodrama with a fable-like air, lingering on cigarette ends in the dark and revelling in the harsh, bleak locations. By sticking with his perspective, this low-key movie manages to be about more than police procedure: on the surface it’s a typical cop thriller, but Bettany’s unpredictable reactions turn the moral examination into something with far more depth. It’s an ordinary script, heightened by an actor at the top of his game.
If Blood benefits from its short runtime, the DVD’s special features are even more brief. A trailer and subtitles are standard fare, but a 10-minute interview with Nick Murphy and Paul Bettany manages to be more insightful than mere EPK content: judging by the way they discuss the movie’s themes and cast (“everybody we wanted to get somehow came on board”) together, you hope they’ll partner up again soon.
You can buy Blood on DVD from Amazon – or watch it on-demand from the following services: