The BBC’s 2004 miniseries Conviction, the saga of a highly dysfunctional cop family, was an underappreciated watermark in contemporary television, a gripping drama that transcended the police-procedural genre through deft characterization and dramatic storytelling. The material always seemed rife with cinematic potential, so it’s no surprise that it’s been adapted into a feature film, Blood, directed by longtime television director Nick Murphy and written by Bill Gallagher, who wrote the original series’s six episodes.
Gallagher more or less keeps the original premise intact. Set in an unnamed, beachside English village, Blood tells the story of two vice cop brothers, Joe (Paul Bettany) and Chrissie Fairbun (Stephen Graham), who, despite their best efforts, can’t seem to emerge from the shadow of their father (Brian Cox), a legendary detective who’s succumbed to dementia in his old age. A high-profile murder case places the brothers under the spotlight, and the pressure leads them to commit a vicious crime of their own, sending their personal and professional lives into upheaval.
Conviction amply developed its characters and explored its milieu, and beneath the overriding story of the brothers’ misdeeds were several juicy subplots that enriched its overall narrative. For concision’s sake, Murphy and Gallagher cut the original, six-hour story down to its most rudimentary elements, but the final product feels frail and underdeveloped rather than streamlined. Themes of family ties, obsession, and morality, so dramatically realized in Conviction, are gracelessly and shapelessly strewn together here.
Conviction’s sinewy story hinged on a sense of repetition, as its main characters investigated and reinvestigated crimes they perpetrated themselves. Gallagher’s script for Blood retains that basic idea, and Murphy, no doubt drawn to the temporal possibilities present in such a narrative, takes the opportunity to experiment with continuity. But his artistry is gimmicky at best, as all the faux-arty elliptical editing and oddly calibrated metaphysical interludes come across as desperate stabs at seriousness. Ultimately, Conviction aspires to Dostoevskian heights while Blood, slight and narrowly focused, barely registers above an episode of Law & Order.