Nick Murphy’s Blood (showing in the festival’s "Thrill" strand) explores the secret cost of human damage on a small group of people in a north of England town. Bodies are invaded and battered; the red stuff is in plentiful supply. Cops, criminals and their families all reach the end of the tethers in this stern, cold police drama about the murder of a teenage girl and its aftermath. Police detective brothers played by Paul Bettany and Stephen Graham investigate the crime. When they begin to question a local man with a shady past things turn grim and complicated. Blood follows Murphy’s previous film The Awakening (which David and I discussed here) as a LFF selection and, as in that spooky throwback, there are ghostly appearances albeit in more subtle ways. Murphy’s direction is as suitably restrained as before, but he adds a touch more immediacy and grit to this contemporary story. The precise, stripped back tone matches the heavy severity of the material, making the most of the script’s gloomy turns. Tough, thankless work is carried out in chilly conditions (both literally and emotionally) by Bettany and team. Every character appears to be on tenterhooks twenty-four-seven, either harbouring grim secrets or desperately striving for unsavoury answers.
However, the ominous intriguing central mystery eventually gives way to some rather wearing British drama clichés. Rote police dialogue – all hard words spouted with brash perplexity – dominates the script and too-familiar character types come and go as the plot plods to its final stretch. Bettany gives an intermittently sly lead performance and a fraught late encounter with Brian Cox as his dementia-ridden dad is moving. But Blood lacks the kind of searing character interaction and enduring mystery that these kinds of gritty dramas thrive on. Perhaps if I hadn’t recently seen Charlie Brooker’s very funny and spot-on police-drama parody A Touch of Cloth (think Inspector Morse meets Frank Drebin) I might have felt more of a connection. (Coincidentally, Cox appears in both Blood and Cloth and plays strangely similar roles) Even just a dash of levity here and there might have made Blood a more invigorating and less brusquely dour experience. C-