Will Canon's debut is essentially a college film which slots into the unfortunate genre of 'frat thriller'.
Brotherhood has been criticised for being too mainstream for an indie movie, but there is no template for a first feature. Director Will Canon isn't likely to have Wes Anderson on his list of influences, but who ever said indie movies must focus on introspection and wry humour? Brotherhood is essentially a college film which slots into the unfortunate genre of 'frat thriller'.
A group of aspiring fraternity pledges circle Dallas in the back of a van as the moronic alpha male screams in their faces. It's fitting that they are all so desperate to join the society – Sigma Zeta Chi – seeing as they all end up facing a mock Greek tragedy.
Their haze is to hold up a convenience store for a ridiculously small amount of money. But since this movie is Michael Bay-infused, it all goes horribly wrong when, Kevin (Lou Taylor Pucci) an anxious pledge, gets himself shot in the shoulder.
Honing in on the college-boy rhetoric of 'guys like us don't lose!', Frank (played by Ben’s little brother-Jon Foster) refuses to let anyone call an ambulance, creating the ticking clock that frames the tireless pace of the plot.
The only character issued with a conscience is Adam (Trevor Morgan), begging the group to take his friend to the hospital. But even Adam's role grows convoluted when he helps to kidnap a store clerk.
On the positive side, other than a few exhausted shouting matches, not a single frame in Brotherhood is wasted, providing a mixed blessing for this movie. Canon has ploughed all his energy into a suspenseful narrative but as a consequence, the events that follow the shooting are just that-a series of unfortunate events, not storyline developments.
The only aspect of the film that is offered a moment to breathe is the kidnapping, which helps to draw out repugnant persona's from the otherwise underdeveloped characters. With high tensions and testosterone bouncing off the basement walls, it starts to look a bit like the Stanford prison experiment.
The Social Networkmanaged to explore the psychological drive behind the social sycophancy of these clubs, an essential explanation that this movie was lacking. When Kevin writhes in pain on a couch surrounded by acquaintances he says, 'this shows I am not a pussy,' hinting at his crippling need for male acceptance. If he were offered any form of back story, it would have given the audience insight into why he would expose himself to frat animosity.
What it does achieve is the ceremonial unveiling of the disingenuousness and idiocy behind fraternities. While members preach the need for camaraderie, all that really exists is a power struggle. The members of Sigma Zeta are more concerned about getting into trouble than letting a friend bleed to death. Though they are grown men, they mirror the acts of children in Lord of the Flies.
Brotherhood is not a film of great substance, it is not high-art or an existential puzzle. What it is, is a seriously watchable movie with a gripping shot-gun narrative. Most are curious about the seedy undertones of fraternity life and the reality behind the hazing clichés. Brotherhood opens up the story, it just doesn't waste time telling it.
An independent college movie about a botched up hazing? Straight-to-DVD.
The film equivalent of a basement paddling. In a good way.
Could use a little more mind-meat, but Canon is one to watch out for.