The usually reliable Paul Bettany and Stephen Graham compete to see who can give the worst performance in Blood, a startlingly inept cop-thriller-cum-family-angst-fest directed by Nick Murphy. The actors' contest comes out at about a tie. Playing police officer brothers who end up killing a suspect while trying to force a confession from him, and then hide the body in order to cover their tracks, the pair indulge in more hilariously tortured, overwrought emoting than has been seen on screen for quite a while.

A good deal of the blame must be laid at Murphy’s door, it must be said. Unlike many people, I rather enjoyed the director’s debut film, The Awakening (2011), finding it to be a stylish, intriguing ghost story that managed to evoke The Innocents and The Others without getting bogged down in a tedious game of spot-the-homage.

Here, though, Murphy never seems to be in control of the material and the actors are left horribly exposed. Blood is dispiritingly generic from the get-go, but it turns dumber and more risible as it goes along. Plot gears grind; Bill Gallagher’s dialogue clunks unmercifully. Adapted by Gallagher from his own 2004 BBC mini-series Conviction, the film aspires to be a gritty offering about changes in approaches to policing - pitting the unscrupulous, strong-arm tactics of the brothers’ retired and ailing cop father (Brian Cox) against the mature approach represented Mark Strong’s sergeant - but the tactics employed are so feeble that this argument never really gets off the ground.

Choking on tough-guy discourse of the "I’ll make you sorry your mother ever opened her legs" variety, Brian Cox is over-ripe as the ailing paterfamilias. Natasha Little and Zoe Tapper are squandered in small roles, and only Mark Strong manages to keep his dignity.

A waste of a lot of very talented people, Blood proves to be an embarrassingly poor effort all round.   

Blood, at Odeon Cinema West EndAlex Ramon reviews director Nick Murphy's Blood at the London Film Festival.1