“Blood Ties” Review

Directed by Kely McClung

Starring Kely McClung and Robert Pralgo

Anyone familiar with my (soon to be un-dormant) column “Independent Review” knows I love independent films, and I am extremely passionate about micro-budget productions in particular.  When the opportunity to check out a micro-budget action film shot on 3 continents came up, I jumped at the chance.  Unfortunately, Blood Ties, directed by stuntman (and here, lead star) Kely McClung, never becomes more than a sum of its parts.

For a stated budget of $15,000, the movie is impressive on many levels.  The locations are lush and visually appealing, but when it gets down past the meditative moments that are meant to explore the characters, there just isn’t enough there.  Now, I can appreciate the fact that the film isn’t overracted, like so many low budget action films.  I can appreciate the great location choices, and what was obviously good time and resource management.

When Jack Davis (Kely McClung) is trying to leave his life as a government operative behind, the world that once sucked him in comes calling when his brother is kidnapped working for a foreign embassy.  Jack must call on all his skills and years of experience as an operative to save his brother, and stop a war over congressional funding.

While the choices of location are often great, and visually interesting on their own, it seems they didn’t have the time to really properly capture the full resources they had on hand, most likely due to time, and in turn, cost limitations.  This is prohibitive, because while the locations look great, if there isn’t enough coverage to properly show them, then it is not as effective.  This is symptomatic of the entire film’s problem, it seemed as every scene was rushed through just to get it on video in as short amount of time as possible.

The end result is not unbearable, but it’s definitely not as polished and well paced as action fans have come to expect their favorite genre films.   The story tries to be intricate, but often just seems to wander instead, with what seems like pages of dialogue missing.  Again, considering the cost of the film, that could be a likely scenario.  Shots could be replaced by inferior shots simply because of lack of time.  As a reviewer, though, I can’t spend time trying to guess what went wrong, I can only point out that it went wrong.

As I stated before, the acting isn’t horrible, as many would expect from a film in this range.  Robert Pralgo carries the bulk of the best acted scenes, but Kely McClung proves he is more than just an accomplished stuntman, although the best sequences are where he brings his fighting experience to the film.

Blood Ties is avaiable now via Amazon.com’s manufacture on demand DVD program, and will be on national VOD outlets starting November 1st, 2011.  After playing many film festivals worldwide,  this small film is finding its audience, and the release pattern is most efficient for the film’s budget.  Here, the producers are proving they know their audience and are dedicated to finding them, without wasting their time advertising to the people that will have no interest.

For fans of martial arts films, 24, and covert operations fiction in general, this is a film you’ll find some merit in.  Anyone that can separate a $15,000 film from a $1.5 million film can appreciate what went into the production of this film.  Hopping from country to country shooting a film guerilla style can be beneficial to some films, and Blood Ties manages to successfully pull it off for the duration of the film.  However, there are too many clunky moments to recommend it wide beyond the starved action landscape die-hards that are still scouring the streets for anything decent, even if it has Dolph Lundgren in it.  This movie, however, does not.


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