Not afraid of you Fairburns anymore.
Joe Fairburn (Paul Bettany, A Beautiful Mind) and his brother, Chrissie (Stephen Graham, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), are two police officers in a small English Town. When a 12-year-old girl is found murdered, it triggers in elder brother Joe the pain of one of his old cases: the unsolved murder of another young girl. When their main suspect is released due to insufficient evidence, the brothers Fairburn take matters into their own hands, crossing a line from which they may not be able to come back.
On IMDb the synopsis for the BBC film Blood describes it as a moral collapse of a police family, but I beg to differ, the downfall of the Fairburn clan had already happened, and this film deals with the result of that decay. The “blood trumps all” attitude handed down by their overbearing father was the beginning of the end for the Fairburns, who on the outside look like police royalty, but underneath are tormented men with questionable morals that surface during a difficult case.
Initially it looks as if Joe is the brother that has his life together: a man with a beautiful wife and daughter who also has the respect of his co-workers. But we see fairly early on that he is wearing a façade, one that was on the verge of cracking even before the stress of the murder investigation. Joe is so sure that former felon Jason Buleigh (Ben Crompton, Game of Thrones) is his guy that he stops looking in any other direction. Buleigh becomes his focus, an obsession that breaks Joe completely.
Lenny, played by Brian Cox (The Bourne Identity), is the boys overbearing father who is suffering from dementia. But when lucid, the man tells the oft heard tales of his glory days, stories that usually consist of he and his fellow officers beating confessions out of suspects in their custody. Lenny thinks he’s a tough guy, and believes the police of his son’s generation are saddled by too many rules to be effective. What he doesn’t realize is his time has passed, and Lenny has become nothing more than an embarrassment to Joe and Chrissie. But they love their father, and have unwittingly followed in his footsteps.
The film has great pacing; it isn’t too fast and disjointed, nor slow and plodding, but a tightly knit study of a dysfunctional family and how the sins of the father can influence the behavior of the sons. As the case takes its toll on Joe, we see the slow destruction of both he and his brother Chrissie — and to a lesser extent their father.
Paul Bettany is amazing — as usual. He’s an actor who in my estimation should be a much bigger star. He’s cut from the same cloth as Jude Law — you know, those debonair English actors who don’t always have to be in the starring role in order to steal a film. Stephen Graham is solid as Chrissie, the younger and seemingly less put together brother. He would follow his brother to the depths of Hell — and does — but pays a high price for covering for Joe’s self-destructive behavior. Brian Cox is brilliant as always in the role of the loud and arrogant Lenny, an old school cop well past his prime.
In an understated yet very important role is Mark Strong as Robert Seymour, a fellow cop alongside the Fairburn boys. He’s the strong (no pun intended) and silent type that sits and listens; the kind other cops don’t always trust because they never know what’s going on in his head. Its Robert’s dogged pursuit that catches the killer, but his persistence also puts him on the trail of Joe and Chrissie. His cool and unemotional portrayal of Robert is the perfect contrast to Bettany’s erratic depiction of Joe. Robert is a no-nonsense cop who used to work alongside Lenny; he was once afraid of the older man but never liked him or his sons. And the Fairburn boys couldn’t be more unlucky having this guy on their trail as they try and hide their dirty deeds.
Blood is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with nothing amazingly special about the visual quality, but it is a nice DVD transfer with clear imaging. The Dolby 5.1 sound offers a nice audio experience, even if at times I found the heavy accents hard to follow. (Too many years in a band has ruined these ears forever.) This is a wonderful import brought to us through the talents of Director Nick Murphy (The Awakening) and writer Bill Gallagher (Lark Rise to Candleford), definitely a couple of talented blokes.
By itself, Paul Bettany’s performance in Blood makes this film worth watching. Lucky for us he’s surrounded by a talented supporting cast, and bolstered by fine writing and directing in a film that should be on everyone’s radar.
2013, Image Entertainment, 92 minutes, NR (2012)
VIDEO: 2.23:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English) SUBTITLES: English SDH
EXTRAS: None ACCOMPLICES: IMDB