Review – Brotherhood

Poster for 2016 urban thriller Brotherhood

Genre: Thriller
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 2nd September 2016
Runtime: 105 minutes
Director: Noel Clarke
Writer: Noel Clarke
Starring: Noel Clarke, Shanika Warren-Markland, Arnold Oceng, Cornell John, Leeshon Alexander, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Rosa Coduri, Stormzy
Synopsis: Sam has left his violent past behind him and is now a family man, but his entire way of life is threatened when a face from his past resurfaces with revenge on their mind.

 

 

For an entire generation of British film fans, there aren’t very many franchises that are as definitive a portrayal of their youth as Kidulthood and Adulthood. They may not have been wielding baseball bats or dealing drugs, but the dialect and culture in which the characters lived was entirely familiar and, therefore, the world of Noel Clarke‘s Sam and his friends really resonated. Eight years after Adulthood, Clarke has returned to the streets of Ladbroke Grove for Brotherhood. His character is certainly older and wiser, but Clarke seems a little hung up on the past.

Sam is still living in Ladbroke Grove, with his wife Kayla (Shanika Warren-Markland) and young child. He has left his violent youth behind him and is working to keep his family afloat when a mysterious threat lures him back into the dark world of crime. Soon, he is crossing paths with psychotic knife enthusiast Hugz (Leeshon Alexander) and the returning spectre of Curtis (Cornell John), uncle of the young man Sam killed in the first film. Sam ropes in his friend Henry (Arnold Oceng) to help him put an end to the dispute once and for all.

Unlike many belated sequels, it felt as if the time was right for Brotherhood. Noel Clarke has done a tremendous job of becoming an integral part of the British film industry and the ‘Hood’ movies remain his crowning achievement. There’s plenty in Brotherhood to enjoy, with Clarke showing a maturing of both his character and his filmmaking ability. The film has plenty to say about growing older, the power of adult responsibility and the gentrification and changes that have transformed London every bit as much as age has transformed the characters. The film is at its best when it focuses on Sam’s turbulent battle between the responsible parent he has become and the violent thug he was in his younger days.

 

 

Unfortunately, much of the film has not moved on at all. Clarke is still fascinated by the grim excesses of urban crime, including women who wander around wearing barely a stitch of clothing and are either manipulative seductresses or tools to generate conflict for the men to sort out. It’s a sadly regressive step in a film that otherwise brings the franchise bang up to date. It’s another example of the urban thriller clichés that Clarke too often slips into. In indulging those clichés whilst critiquing some of them – new youths laugh when Sam refers to them as “blud” – Clarke tries to both have his cake and stab it too.

Clarke’s central performance is the best it has ever been, conveying Sam’s predicament with artful emotion and impressive depth. Arnold Oceng, too, is exceptional in a role that provides much-needed levity in a film that is otherwise considerably grimmer than previous entries in the trilogy. One running gag involving a Nectar card provides consistent chuckles. Unfortunately, Cornell John lets the side down with a performance that starts at hammy pantomime villain and therefore meshes awkwardly with the grit of the surroundings and gives John nowhere to go when the intensity needs to increase for the third act.

Brotherhood doesn’t feature nearly enough that’s new and, in many ways, seems stuck in the past. It’s a film that has great ideas about the modern world, but struggles to impart those ideas without entirely replicating the tone of its predecessors. Much like the character of Sam, Clarke seems caught between the mature filmmaker he is today and the angry youth he once was. For Brotherhood to work, it needed something of the adolescent swagger of that irate young man.

 

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!

There’s an internal conflict at the heart of Brotherhood that prevents it from being the film that it could have been. Clarke makes some interesting points about living in 2016, but many aspects of this universe are stuck a decade ago and refuse to move forward into the more liberal, progressive world in which we live. The performances are solid, but this certainly lacks the punch of Clarke’s previous work.

 

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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