Brotherhood is the finale to Noel Clarke's "hood" trilogy, which follows the trials and tribulations of young inner-city kids in North West London.
The "hood" films that preceded this were earnest and wore their hearts proudly on their sleeves. They were movies that weren't as grimly authentic as the brilliant drama Top Boy, but did speak to those who had grown up on the streets of ‘urban’ London. Brotherhood takes all of that somewhat realistic kitchen-sink urban drama, injects it with super-serum fires out of a cannon, turns super-sayain and hits it with a spirit-bomb. This movie is bat-shit crazy
The story follows series regular Sam (Noel Clarke), now a responsible adult struggling to make ends meat doing multiple jobs. Royston (Daniel Anthony), his brother, is shot in retaliation for something Sam may have done in his past. Sam enlists the help of his friend Henry (Arnold Oceng) in a quest for revenge. What follows is a journey through madness...
The problem I have reviewing this film is that I don’t know how self-aware it is. Is it supposed to be as farcical as it seems? Does it know how incredibly campy it is? It's such a big departure from what these movies used to be, from a Michael Leigh inspired attempt at social realist drama to utter insanity.
There are shotguns, racist gangsters, naked ladies, sex scenes and some of the most ridiculous and hammy bad guys I have ever see. "Yardie" gangster Uncle Curtis (Cornell John) and knife wielding villain Hugs (Leeshon Alexander), literally inhale scenery directly into their gullets and turn this movie into pure farce.
The dramatic moments in Brotherhood tend to revolve around Sam’s relationship with his girlfriend Kyla, played by Shanika Warren-Markland who puts in an earnest but wooden performance. Their relationship is straight-up annoying and every interaction between them feels like being forced to watch youth theatre… until the end of all mankind.
With all that said there are some really good things about Brotherhood; Arnold Oceng is the breakout star, lifting the film from low-level British gangster flick to a brilliant piece of "urban" comedy. In fact this movie shines brightest when it’s going down the comedy angle – it’s incredibly funny. The action is unbelievably stupid but still fun, the cinematography is definitely more glossy than previous Clarke films and for fans of the previous "hood" movies there are a lot of winks and nods to leave you walking away with a smile on your face.
Brotherhood is an absolute departure from the previous movies and is a "hood" movie in name alone. Any resemblance to Kidulthood and Adulthood are extremely superficial. The pure organically smoked-ham stops any dramatic moment from having emotional impact, the structure of the movie is all over the place and it is far too darn long! Also the nudity in this movie is not an issue but the exploitative nature of the way some of the women are treated is a little uncomfortable.
There is a lot of fun to be had in Brotherhood – it’s a funny movie with a lot of British talent – but there are too many flaws for me to wholeheartedly recommend it.