Jon Foster and Trevor Morgan in Brotherhood
Based on his own short film Roslyn, Will Canon’s crime thriller Brotherhood is an imperfect but promising feature debut. When a fraternity initiation ritual involving convenience store robbery goes bad, young recruit Adam finds himself stuck between his dying friend Kevin and Frank, the tyrannical frat leader who will do anything to stay out of jail. What follows is a series of escalating misadventures as the boys try desperately to fix their initial wrong while the consequences and the suspense pile up in a one-thing-after-another chain reaction.
What works best about Brotherhood is the level of suspense Canon manages to sustain for the film’s relatively quick 79 minute runtime. It’s got the flavor of a gritty genre picture with handheld camera work that manages to up the immediacy without getting on your nerves. It’s the kind of picture that wouldn’t be totally out of place next to John Carpenter’s ’70s work.
Keeping the film on track, a mostly unknown cast helps carry the day with believable performances that lift the film over some rocky narrative terrain. Trevor Morgan (Jurassic Park III, The Patriot) is especially good as Adam, the character on whom the film completely depends once sympathy for his silly frat boy brethren drains away.
What doesn’t work so well is a script that consistently defies credibility and even evokes a few (possibly) unintentional smiles. As big of an asshat as he his, it’s hard to believe Frank would be able to keep a lid on the situation as it spirals further and further out of control or that Adam wouldn’t just bolt for the cops at the first opportunity. Some of the situations too are a little silly, like when a posse of angry drunken frat girls shows up to muddy an already complicated situation. At this point Brotherhood might’ve turned into a pretty great riff on Martin Scorsese’s darkly comic After Hours, but the tone is all wrong. Everything is executed with a complete earnestness that is at odds with intended humor. A little more tongue in cheek would’ve resulted in a very different movie than Canon likely intended, but probably also a better one – perhaps an almost great one.
As it is, Brotherhood is a promising feature debut. Canon shows a real knack for stringing a story along even if he needs to dial it back in places. For the most part it is efficiently entertaining and it manages to stay half a step of expectations on the way to a satisfying conclusion. Hollywood is crammed with pictures by veterans that cost more and accomplish less.
Brotherhood opens February 18 in Dallas and on VOD. It opens February 25 in Los Angeles.
Brotherhood. USA 2011. Directed by Will Canon. Screenplay by Will Canon and Doug Simon. Cinematography by Michael Fimognari. Music score composed by Dan Marocco. Edited by Josh Schaeffer. Starring Jon Foster, Trevor Morgan, Arlen Escarpeta and Lou Taylor Pucci. 1 hour 19 minutes. MPAA rated R for pervasive language, some violence and sexual content. 3 stars (out of 5)