Directed by Will Canon.
Starring Trevor Morgan, Jon Foster, Lou Taylor Pucci, Arlen Escarpeta, Jesse Steccato and Jennifer Sipes.
When an initiation prank goes horribly wrong the members of a college fraternity desperately try to suppress the truth and take ever more desperate steps to cover their tracks, forcing one pledge to make a stand in order to save the life of a friend.
Maybe I’ve seen National Lampoon’s Animal House too many times, but to me there’s always been something idiotic about American college fraternities. Grown men engaging in homoerotic initiation rituals that typically involve the paddling of bare bottoms and such like all seems a bit odd quite frankly. However, while my understanding of the ‘frat house’ concept has mainly been formed by the aforementioned comedy classic, I can now add another film to that list, Will Canon’s feature debut Brotherhood. Going against the usual comedy grain to deliver a straight-up thriller, Brotherhood revolves around a fraternity initiation gone bad and really confirms the moronic nature of the whole subculture.
The film begins as two pledges, Adam (Trevor Morgan) and Kevin (Lou Taylor Pucci), prepare to complete the final phase of their initiation. Spurred on by alpha male Frank (Jon Foster) they are to jump out from a van and hold up a nearby convenience store for the princely sum of $19.10, a tribute to the year of the fraternity’s establishment. Only this being a ‘hazing’, the idea isn’t to commit a crime, but rather to test their devotion to the ‘brotherhood’ of Sigma Zeta Chi; someone is waiting outside to prevent them from entering the store and while everything goes smoothly for Adam, a mix-up results in Kevin taking a bullet to the shoulder as he attempts to hold-up cashier Mike (Arlen Escarpeta), a former high-school classmate.
Bleeding profusely, Kevin is in desperate need of medical attention but rather than facing up to the consequences of their foolish actions, Frank and his jock buddies opt to take him back to the frat house where a party is in full swing. Despite protests from Adam and medical student Bean (Jesse Steccato), Frank refuses to take Kevin to a hospital and puts into action plans to cover up the robbery at any cost, with each action digging them further into the mire. In their desperation to avoid jail they abduct Mike and tie him up in the basement, and it soon becomes a race against time to prevent things spiralling completely beyond their control.
Discussing the influences on his debut feature, director Canon pointed to the work of Joe Carnahan and Michael Mann, while a review from Inside Pulse likened Brotherhood to “an extended episode of The Shield”, a description which I feel is entirely appropriate. Running at just under 80 minutes, Brotherhood moves at a blistering, breakneck pace; from opening scene we are thrust right into the action and not a moment is wasted as each passing scene cranks up the tension, which is further enhanced by effective use of ‘shakycam’ and strong, believable performances from its cast (particularly Morgan, who has enjoyed quite an impressive career to date with roles in the likes of The Sixth Sense, Jurassic Park III and Mean Creek).
Brotherhood had quite a successful run on the festival circuit last year, picking up Audience Awards at SXSW and the Dallas International Film Festival, along with a Gotham Award nomination, losing out to eventual winner Waiting for Superman. Having enjoyed a limited theatrical run here in the UK earlier this month, Brotherhood now arrives on DVD (complete with filmmaker’s commentary, making of documentary and Roslyn, Canon’s 8-minute student short that inspired the feature) and is certainly worth checking out. It’s not earth-shattering by any means, but a capable debut from a promising talent.
Brotherhood is released on DVD in the UK today and will receive a limited theatrical run in the US from February 18th.
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