What’s frustrating about The Brother isn’t just that it’s another bargain-bin gangster flick, but that it occasionally shows signs of genuine maturity. The premise is straight out of The Big Book of Gangster Clichés, with its Haunted Loner pulled in by a Sinister Organisation to complete One Last Job. There are standard ruminations on family, morality, the past, and the future, none of which are developed to much meaningful effect – it’s all a structure to support various acts of bloodshed.
Watching the film itself, though, it’s easy to get distracted by some fairly interesting aesthetic choices. We follow Adam (Tygh Runyan), a Canadian cloakroom attendant with a dark past. He’s trying to move on with his life, but after his brother Eli (Jed Rees) turns up with rumours about his father Jack (Anthony Head) being in trouble with a local arms dealer, they’re pulled back in action to save him. The twist is that Jack is suffering from dementia and cannot remember why he’s in trouble; this all serves to complicate the action, endangering Adam and his new girlfriend Claire (Noémie Merlant).
This is typical gangster rubbish, with all the terrible dialogue and acting that implies. Belinda Stewart-Wilson, best known as Will’s mum in The Inbetweeners, gives a particularly lousy turn as a femme fatale – though Anthony Head just about manages to hold his own amid the tumultuous stew of violence.
There are two saving graces to The Brother, however: one is the photography from Brian Johnson, which demonstrates that writer/director Ryan Bonder is actually quite a good visual storyteller. Some moments are held for an uncomfortable period of time; editing is used to illustrate the confusion of Jack’s dementia; and the final Taxi Driver influenced shot is rather good. The other is a solid turn from Merlant as Adam’s deaf girlfriend, whose condition is brought to life by the audio and visual medium of film. The best scene involves her practicing ballet in silence, and suddenly noticing that another class has entered the dance studio. One senses that she would make a much more interesting protagonist, for a much more interesting film.
The Brother is released in selected cinemas on Friday 16th September.
Watch the trailer for The Brother here: