Brotherhood is a full-throttle thriller that starts with a bang and ends with a polarizing flourish. This gritty 70-minute tale of fraternity initiation gone wrong utilizes the what-else-could-happen approach to keep the story rocketing towards the finish. Luckily, this familiar path is given a detour by director and co-writer Will Canon, who opts for a logical conclusion to an illogical yet enjoyable yarn. While the opening is enough to hook you, the turns by Jon Foster and Trevor Morgan keep you from tuning out through the murky middle. You might feel like you went through a hazing yourself by the time the credits roll, but the pack mentality and first act will stick with you. If you are in, hit the jump for my full review.
One final step lies in front of freshman Adam Buckley (Trevor Morgan) and his fellow pledges to the Sigma Zeta Chi fraternity. However, that final hurdle gets Adam’s friend and fellow pledge Kevin (Lou Taylor Pucci) shot. When levelheaded senior fraternity member Frank (Jon Foster) attempts to control the situation and keep everyone out of trouble, every move seems to falter. While Adam sees a clear solution, the pack mentality of the fraternity members continues to complicate matters. Will they work together to find a solution or will everything end in disaster?
While the premise alone is easy to follow, the twists and turns are often uneven. Some feel natural and deliver quite a shock, but others are illogical and forced. The real downfall is the slew of secondary characters. Friends of friends are dragged into the mess as if they will be the solution, only to end up creating a completely new set of problems. More than that, they are often clichéd to no end. That is why when first-time director Will Canon focuses on the leads, Brotherhood regains its footing. Frank and Adam become an explosive dynamic of brains and determination. They see two very different paths of resolution, and both try to pull against each other. Interestingly enough, you end up pulling for Frank and Adam to find some solution and that is a testament to the writing of those two characters in particular.
Instead of treating this with a wink and a smile, Canon stripped the film down and created a dirty reality that the characters populate. The first act sets the mood right out of the gates and it never lets up. Just when you think you can finally breathe, a new twist throws everything back into chaos. Shots can quickly transition between events or angles, but the picture is always sharp and the action in frame. Additionally, Brotherhood is never bogged down by back story or flashbacks. The film is constantly barreling forward, which means the abrupt end might leave some with whiplash. For me, it was elegantly simple and did not have a glaring plot hole that so many twisting films end with.
Will Canon’s feature film debut has its share of drawbacks, but the sheer intensity and execution of the setting feels like a veteran was behind the scenes. While most of the secondary characters can feel gratingly clichéd or obvious plot points given a face, the leads are enough to make you want to endure the bad parts. The fact that Brotherhood is short and constantly on the gas helps keep your attention. For some, the ending might throw them off, but for others the start and finish will be the moments that shine. Brotherhood opens in Dallas today, Los Angeles next weekend, and is on Video On-Demand now.