Monday, 22 June 2015
If you haven't seen Conviction, the excellent 2004 BBC3 drama series by Bill Gallagher than chances are you'll love Blood, the big screen adaptation from the same writer which BBC2 broadcast last night.
But if you have seen the original, this remake from director Nick Murphy is largely surplus to requirements. It's a stylish and gritty enough affair and it benefits from a tight focus condensing six hours into just 90 minutes but it's got several flaws that ensure it cannot achieve the same heights of the original drama series.
Conviction starred William Ash, Ian Puleston-Davies, Reece Dinsdale, Laura Fraser and Nicholas Gleaves as five detectives investigating the gruesome murder of a teenage girl in or around Manchester. Their main suspect is a local man with a history of sexual offences played by Jason Watkins but frustratingly the evidence they need to prove he did it remains elusive. After a drunken party, the Ash and Puleston-Davies characters kidnap their prime suspect and take him to the woods with the intention of gleaning a confession through scare tactics and interrogation, but Puleston-Davies goes too far and kills him. From there the two detectives have to cover their tracks and, when new evidence comes to light, they find they must face up to the sobering and shocking realisation that the man they killed was actually innocent all along and that the real killer remains at large.
Blood follows this same plot but reduces the central characters in the squad from five to three, dropping Laura Fraser's character altogether, and excises several subplots. Stephen Graham takes on the William Ash role, whilst Paul Bettany plays an amalgamation of the roles previously taken by Ian Puleston-Davies and Nicholas Gleaves - who was Ash's older brother in the series. The film keeps the sibling structure at its heart but unfortunately I didn't buy for one moment that Bettany and Graham were brothers. The believability of the characters and the central conceit in Conviction was that Ash was an impressionable young detective standing in the shadows of both his older brother and his now retired and senile father (David Warner in the series, Brian Cox here) and falling under the spell of the bombastic, older Puleston-Davies. Bettany doesn't have the same force of nature style that Puleston-Davies brought to the character and its hard to see the assured Graham being easily led by him, older sibling or not, or indeed anyone. In fact its actually a shame they didn't cast Graham as the more quick tempered, manipulative character really. The cast assembled by director Nick Murphy is a strong one, but they're not firing on all cylinders. I'd argue Bettany is actually the weakest of the four so its a shame much of the film rests on his shoulders, meanwhile Mark Strong, normally always an effective presence on screen, is largely wasted as the quirky, quiet loner of the team played so memorably by Dinsdale in the original series.
As you've probably guessed from reading this by now, I am a fan of Conviction which told its story in a very satisfactory manner because it placed its characters at the heart of the story and allowed you time to explore them and understand them. Blood is an average, enjoyable film that benefits greatly from atmospheric direction and the use of the still, austere Wirral locations (though its refusal to specify its whereabouts on film, with Cox and Graham adopting cockney style accents to fit in with the predominantly southern English actors cast here is a bit disappointing) but it's only real plus - that it tells the story of Conviction in a quicker and more efficient manner - is ultimately also the thing that scuppers it. If I want to watch Conviction but haven't 6 hours to spare, then Blood would come in handy but as it is, I'd recommend the original over this.