SXSW FILM 2010
By Don Simpson | April 7, 2010
Director: Will Canon
Writers: Will Canon, Douglas Simon
Starring: Jon Foster, Trevor Morgan, Arlen Escaparta, Lou Taylor Pucci
I’ll say it now and I’ll say it again: Will Cannon’s Brotherhood is a relentless assault of tension. We start off with a van full of white guys being initiated into a frat by robbing various convenience stores – the pledges are instructed to only steal $19.10 (because 1910 was the year that their frat was founded). Due to a botched communication, the last robbery of the night goes horribly wrong. There is a shooting, and rather than bringing the victim (Lou Taylor Pucci) to the hospital or calling the police, the frat leader Frank (Jon Foster) hopelessly attempts to cover everything up.
Back at the frat house, a raging party is underway when the upperclassmen and new recruits return home from the incident with the bloody-drenched victim. Many mistakes are made and the lies begin to snowball out of control, causing other serious accidents to occur – eventually someone dies and there is no choice but to involve the police.
During my bus ride home after the SXSW 2010 screening, I heard someone comment that Brotherhood was “an indie film whose plot and structure was sooooo mainstream” – I could not have said it any better myself. Cannon is hanging dutifully on the coattails of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay – directors that have an amazing knack for balls to the wall nonstop action…not to mention relentless assaults of f-bombs. (I should note that this comparison only goes so far, because Cannon’s film does without the glitzy special effects and fanciful editing that Bruckheimer and Bay both rely upon so heavily.)
The film’s pacing is quick, not a frame of film is wasted. There is always something happening – something dramatic, something important, something to propel the narrative even faster. But no matter how flawlessly Cannon pulls off each and every trick from his straight outta Hollywood toolbox of narrative devices, he glosses over some narrative elements that are meaningful to me as a film-goer – primarily: character development. Though it admittedly would have slowed the pace down a few notches (probably something that Cannon did not want to do), I suspect that Brotherhood would have been more thrilling ride for me if I felt even the most subtle attachment to a few of the characters. Instead, the characters (played by actors who appear to be older than their characters – which I also find distracting) are mere mannequins in Cannon’s charade of high-octane cinema.
Again, what Cannon does with Brotherhood, he does extremely well. It takes a lot of talent to keep the adrenaline boiling for the entire length of a feature film. I sense that Cannon has a very successful career in film-making ahead of him. But it’s the utter ridiculousness (read: unreality) of the plot and the disdain for suitable character development that really ruins Brotherhood for me. But then again I’m not a fan of Bruckheimer or Bay either – though I admittedly do respect their skills and technique – and, at least according to the box office, I am definitely in the minority with that opinion. Also note that I am giving Brotherhood a 5/10 rating – which is a higher score than I would give to most of Bruckheimer or Bay’s films.