Written and Directed by Noel Clarke.
Starring Noel Clarke, Steven Cree, Olivia Chenery, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Nick Nevern, Adjoa Andoh, Arnold Oceng, Fredi ‘Kruga’ Nwaka and Ashley Thomas.
The final instalment in Noel Clarke’s West London crime trilogy sees Sam Peel reckon with his past as attacks on his family threaten his future. With Sam’s former violent ways behind him, can he return to that life without risking everything he’s worked toward?
At a screening of Brotherhood in London’s West End, writer/director/star Noel Clarke entered the auditorium to a smattering of applause.
“It’s okay, you don’t have to clap,” he said. “I know half of you are critics who don’t like me anyway.” Clarke continued to introduce the film, half-heartedly advising the audience to “go with the emotion” before thanking the members of cast and crew present and suggesting that they ignore any reviewers in the audience who might be looking over their shoulders.
In a way, Clarke’s completely justified in not wanting to pander to critics: the first two films in his -hood series, Kidulthood and Adulthood, were relative smashes at the UK box office and built an audience who were evidently hungry for the kind of stories the actor-turned-filmmaker was telling.
Eight years on from Adulthood, though, it seems a shame that the story hasn’t changed much. Brotherhood sees Clarke’s character Sam out to stop to the West London gangsters who shot his brother in a nightclub. Now a working family man with a wife and two children, this is a life he thought he’d escaped but, Corleone-style, he gets dragged back into a morass of violence and depravity after having his newfound peace threatened.
The world Sam enters is a familiar, hackneyed one full of psychopathic posh boys, contrived revenge plots and abused, naked women used as props. What might otherwise be considered a dark tone is lightened by a reliance on an uncomfortably jokey tone that offsets some brutal, uncomfortable balance and the presence of several female characters who are simply credited as “Sex Slaves”. Clarke doesn’t shy away from poking fun at himself either – his growing paunch and lack of virility are a target of the bawdy humour – but this only serves to sap the unfolding melodrama of any residual sincerity.
The highlights there are come in the form of serious concerns posed by minor characters: the young hanger-on, for example, who asks why the gang culture in which she’s embedded is so centered around misogyny (and, by extension, fragile masculinity); or the heavy who seriously questions his loyalty to the villains after seeing his colleague stabbed by what is essentially their line manager before eventually ceding his ground.
This would all make fertile dramatic soil for serious dissections of modern inner-city living and power structures, but Clarke’s flashy, “gritty” direction and farcical screenplay are more interested in making a passive audience chortle than wrestle with something more. After Kidulthood was released, his writing was criticized for being “overambitious”. If only he’d kept some of that ambition for Brotherhood.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
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