Hazy about what a ‘hazing’, the subject of aspiring writer/director Will Canon’s feature debut, ‘Brotherhood’, means? Well, it’s an initiation process involving harassment. And Canon’s frenetic, coming-of-age thriller takes you along on a US fraternity one; imprisoning you in the frat boys’ van from the word go, like an unwilling witness to the tragic acts to follow.
‘Brotherhood’ is gleefully energetic and somewhat intense from the start, almost theatrical in a way, where the characters actions propel the narrative forward, like a sinister farce, rather than reacting to surroundings out of their immediate control. These young men have created a world order of their own that collides with reality. In fact, the intriguing concept is the characters have the power to stop the catalogue of disasters happening at any time, but due to a misguided loyalty and peer pressure, feel they can’t back down. It will have most logical-minded folk shaking their head in frustration and disbelief.
A botched convenience store robbery, part of a college fraternity hazing, starts a catalyst for a series of events that forces new student and pledger Adam Buckley (Trevor Morgan) to take a stand to save a friend and fellow pledger’s life.
Co-starring lesser known actors Jon Foster, Lou Taylor Pucci, Arlen Escarpeta, Jesse Steccato, Luke Sexton and Jennifer Sipes among others, the film manages to slow down to portray the principle characters’ personalities and how they conflict, each dealing with ideas of justice, integrity and redemption.
Indeed, Canon’s film, born out of an eight-minute college short called ‘Roslyn’, feels like a very personal reflection on such a situation (although the director claims he’s never experienced such a night like the one in the story) but without making their world seem alien to any audience.
As the title states, it’s about ‘brotherhood’, however misguided that unity might be, and it translates well in the extreme to the UK gang culture epidemic (as the media would have us believe), making the actions of Adam and co seem as believable in any place, whilst compacting the class barriers.
In relation to class, what is quite disturbing is a supposed ‘cream of the American educational crop’ and possible future leaders having no more civility or self control than others less fortune or educated. In this respect, it’s a compelling study of pact mentality, shot in a gritty indie style to give it added resonance and significance. However, there is a touch of the low-budget, college B movie to it at times, plus some characters that feel merely one-dimensional – always an issue with so many players on screen at once.
That said Morgan is an exciting and promising acting talent, reminiscent of a young Sean Penn, both passionate and fiery but level headed and trustworthy. He carries many of the scenes, stealing the limelight away from the likes of more established players, like Taylor Pucci, at times, who plays his wounded friend, Kevin, whose life hangs in the balance. This could be Morgan’s mark on the international film scene, if Brotherhood reaches a mainstream audience.
There is also a theatrical stand-off between the boys and their prisoner, a young black clerk called Mike (Escarpeta) who fuels many of aggressive, despotic and racist behaviour in a group who ought to know better. Canon could have delved further into uglier realms, here, although his end twist is a surprisingly unexpected one, showing the writer/director has a talent for the genre.
‘Brotherhood’ demonstrates some promising filmmaking talent and a fresh new eye for the genre, even though Canon allows the story to lapse into low-budget titillation at times. As a pop culture piece, it has enough angst and momentum to grab the youth market’s attention, and with an eager young cast on board, it will certainly prick the interest of such an audience.