Saturday, May 14, 2011

Brotherhood and Dying to Fit In: A Movie Review

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*full disclosure: a DVD screener of this film was provided by Phase 4 Films.

Director: Will Canon.

Writers: Will Canon and Douglas Simon.

Brotherhood is director Will Canon's first film and this feature is based on his earlier short film, "Roslyn." Due to release on DVD May 17th, Brotherhood is a continuously tense time, spent with one young man's pledge to a local fraternity. The night does not go as planned and instead of putting shrinkwrap under toilet seats, there are simulated convenience store hold-ups. Soon, central character and new pledge Adam (Trevor Morgan) is standing up to fraternity leader Frank (Jon Foster), in what turns out to be a test of right and wrong. Unbelievably panned by critics, this indie thriller is an exciting time spent in a dramatization of fraternity life.

Adam, Kevin and a couple of other young men are taken out into the dark night around the City of Hamilton. They are told to rob local gas stations and small stores for exactly $19.10, the year their fraternity was formed. This initiation right is part ruse, while Canon paints a poor picture of fraternities in general. Sure there are parties, women and pranks, but there is also alcohol poisoning, humiliation, racism and a whole slew of poor ideals to conform to. The characters in the film do much of what Frank tells them, in order to not appear weak, in front of their overconfident fraternity brothers.

The lengths that these characters will go to in order to fit in is believable and this desire is the cause of the tension in the film. To get to the top of the pecking order of Sigma Zeta Chi you must prepare to torture convenience store clerks and to take hostage those who threaten to turn against you. In the beginning, Frank is a charismatic macho leader at the top, as Adam rises by constantly offering the right course of action. Frank and Adam's moral compasses are in conflict, which leads to many of the more exciting scenes. Masked robbery anyone?

Late in the film, the character Kevin is slowly bleeding to death from a gunshot wound, with Frank covering up car accidents, forced confessions and a concussed doctor. Events are simply spiraling out of control. However, a moral message is being delivered by Canon, despite film critics harping on "the thin story" (Tribune). Acting on what is right will usually get you out of tough situations, but lying and concealing events will often create more problems. The amount of challenges these characters deal with is already high enough, without adding in more sinister complications. Viewers will develop their own take on the film; yet, this message of acting appropriately repeats, late into the film.

Despite being roasted by most critics, Brotherhood is a thrilling time spent looking through the eyes of Adam and a group of pledges seeking that innate need of belongingness. Brotherhood was shot on a budget, yet the production values are high and the action is intense. And this reviewer would put this in his top ten for indie thrillers thus far in 2011. Enjoy the film, where you can find a copy.

Characters/believability/action: 7.5 (it is not too hard to believe some of the actions of villain Frank and others).
Social message/philosophy: 7.5 (there is a lesson here in all the drunken, violent action).

Overall: 7.5 out of 10 (enjoyable, the film might be targeted to a certain brasher audience).

Special features on the release: two audio commentaries, Sigma Zeta Chi pledge interviews, photo montage, trailers, short film, and a behind the scenes featurette.

A review of this film at the Chicago Tribune (Geoff Berkshire):

Brotherhood at the Chicago Tribune

More details on this release can be found at Phase 4 Films:

Brotherhood at Phase 4 Films

This one is definitely worth a purchase:

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