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In spite of being aware of the inevitable, people do stupid things to avoid the negative consequences of their actions. They tell big lies to cover up small lies and do bad things to cover up the inconsequential. What’s scary, though, is that it’s all proportional. The worse something is, the more horrible the dissimulation. It’s a hard lesson and one taught in writer/director Will Canon’s Brotherhood.
One the last night of pledges for the Sigma Zeta Chi, Adam (Trevor Morgan) and Kevin (Lou Taylor Pucci) have to complete one final ritual: rob a convenience store for $19.10. Actually a set-up by the brothers, who are waiting with the money in a bag at each store, a mistake leads to Kevin getting shot in the shoulder. Not wanting to see himself or anyone else go to jail, Frank (Jon Foster), the senior fraternity brother, tries to handle the situation without bringing Kevin to a hospital. But just as they always do, things subsequently get progressively worse and Adam must decide if he is going to follow the group or do the right thing.
In a strange way, the film’s structure is both its best and worst feature. In nearly every scene things find a way to go from bad to worse, which keeps the audience engaged and interested in what happens to the characters; but it all piles on so quickly that you can actually see the scaffolding on which the story hangs and how Plot Point C moves to Plot Point D. While, to a degree, it makes you feel as though you are watching the events unfold in real time, it never takes the opportunity to step back, take a deep breath, and help the audience absorb everything.
Filmed entirely with hand-held cameras, the audience is given the illusion that they aren’t merely observers of what’s going on, but are right in the room with the brothers. As a result it becomes much easier to be sucked into the story as the characters’ problems. While it does prove to be a hindrance in some instances, particularly during the more chaotic scenes where crowds of people fill the frame and make it hard to see what’s going on, at the end of the day it serves as an advantage.
One of the more interesting aspects of the film is the way that it plays with morality. While Frank would be the one considered to be the main antagonist, due to his selfishness in not wanting to get help for Kevin, most of the film features Adam and him working together to try and escape with the least amount of harm done. The characters are never black and white and therefore more compelling. The audience finds themselves hoping that Adam, Kevin, Frank and the rest of the brothers succeed in being able to avoid prison sentences for a crime they most certainly committed.
Running at a full sprint for its entire run (the movie is only 79 minutes long), Will Canon’s film is flawed but ultimately satisfying. Overall the script could have benefited from a few extra pages that would help bolster the relationships between the leads, but it manages to get by without. Brotherhood is far from a perfect film, but certainly a solid first-feature effort.