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BrOTHERHOOD Film Review
Directed by Noel Clarke
Genre: Crime - Drama
Noel Clarke grows up in this mature, gritty sequel that has flashes of greatness and surprising laugh out loud moments which, though entertaining, make the tone a little mixed up. There are memorable characters and poetic observations around getting older on the mean streets of London.
Kidulthood was the young gritty upstart coming of age film which had lots to say about growing up in London. Adulthood was a great urban genre film about dealing with the past. In BrOTHERHOOD we return to Sam, Noel Clarke’s reformed bully, who has put his past behind him and is now a man with a wife and kids, working several jobs to provide for his family. Suddenly his world gets turned upside down when his brother, a young up and coming singer is shot during a concert and a mysterious message is left for Sam, threatening the rest of his family.
Clarke delivers another solid performance as Sam, giving a nobility that comes from trying to move forward despite all that has happened. In the opening Clarke thoughtfully takes time to express the reality of getting older which rings true as his audience have grown up alongside the films. Sam really does want to just be left alone and like many young people who have made mistakes in the past, he just wants to move forward and do well. This poignant realistic opening is soon undone with the entrance of the cartoonish antagonists; an unsavoury gang who live in magical West London mansion.
BrOTHERHOOD is funny. Like really funny. Arnold Oceng returns as the now scene stealing Henry, a friend of Sam’s brother who gets pulled away from his happy domestic life with his girlfriend to reluctantly help Sam. His performance is an eccentric revelation. A running gag around a Sainsbury’s discount card, his attempts at being street when faced with danger and a particularly brilliant scene with a henchman (played by Thornton Heath’s superstar MC Stormzy) in his Prius are some of the highlights of the film. His comic touch is a welcome break from some of the grim violence that takes place. Another deliciously eccentric performance comes from Jason Meza’s young gangland boss Daley who takes himself hilariously seriously and despite being physically slight, manages to be genuinely frightening. His repeated casual racism and pretentious philosophizing raise his character from mere cartoon villain to something much more interesting than an archetype we’ve seen before.
The remainder of the supporting cast are a mixture of impressive debuts and bum notes. Stormzy turns in a strong performance as one of the henchmen of the film who starts off conventionally but as the violence escalates, his moral compass is tested. Tonia Sotiropoulou plays the modern femme fatale Janette with an interesting streak of humanity, giving a far more subtle performance than the material implies. Rosa Caduri’s Poppy is also a fascinating character; a young girl who enjoys the street glamour of being in a gang. Unfortunately the other female characters are not given as much agency, mostly being relegated to wives, girlfriends, mothers and silent prostitutes.
Cornell John’s Uncle Curtis returns, he was always a bit of a caricature but here is given enough screen time to really hammer that clumsily home. Leeshon Alexander is woefully miscast as Hugs, the seemingly most dangerous member of Daley’s mob. Size doesn’t always matter and despite his large frame, Alexander does not exude the necessary charisma nor menace to embody any kind of real danger on screen.
This is an ambitious film but despite some great ingredients, Clarke as writer/director doesn’t quite pull off this cocktail of dark eccentric comedy and very grim violence confidently. The tone at times rattles, particularly as the humour is brilliantly funny but then followed up with gruesome violence that seem from another film. If Clarke had been more confident and stuck to the realistic opening, we could have had something special. An alternative would have been to go all in with the more aspiring, stylised and over the top theatrics of the scenes with the gang, giving it a more Hollywood style.
BrOTHERHOOD is a good film. It has some wonderful performances and some great moments that elevate it despite its somewhat rough tone. I certainly think there is enough here that the story could continue for a fourth instalment despite the protestations in the marketing that this is #theend.
BrOTHERHOOD COMES TO BLU-RAY & DVD 26 DECEMBER 2016.
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