While the depiction of crime and the effects it has on family may be familiar to cinema audiences, director Jacques Maillot’s doesn’t seem afraid to revisit some of the common themes in his new 1970s-set crime thriller Rivals (Les Liens du sang).
As Gabriel (Francois Cluzet) is released from jail to try and make a new life for himself, police inspector brother Francois (Guillaime Canet) must come to terms with what his sibling has done and the fact that his family treat Gabriel like the prodigal son on his return to society.
Trying to rebuild his life, Gabriel takes on mediocre jobs, falls in love and realises that it really isn’t that easy to go straight. At the same time Francois’s path starts to cross that of his brothers in ways which will end up being dangerous for both them and those around them.
Although the fate of the characters in Rivals seem to be predetermined, with Gabriel’s promise to get a 9 – 5 job and to remain on the right side of the law clearly a pipe dream from the outset, the film isn’t afraid to play with viewer expectations.
There are some lovely little moments in the film which flesh out the characters nicely, Gabriel’s meeting with his daughter for the first time as he presents her with some records and dances the twist a memorable one.
Full of period detail and music, Rivals is a feast for the eyes, so much so that one finds oneself gazing at various backdrops to scenes to see just how much of the 70s is present.
While there’s nothing radical about the plot and the slightly confused ending does feel rushed, this is still a smart alternative to most crime films, the performance of Cluzet the strongest amongst a powerful cast.
Review by Jonathan Melville
Rivals can be seen at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse until Thursday 18 December – visit the Filmhouse website for full details.