BROTHERS BY BLOOD Review; "A Compelling, If Somewhat Forgettable Glimpse Into The Gritty World Of Crime"

BROTHERS BY BLOOD Review; "A Compelling, If Somewhat Forgettable Glimpse Into The Gritty World Of Crime"

Brothers by Blood stars Matthias Schoenaert (The Old Guard) and Joel Kinnaman (The Suicide Squad), but can their stellar performances help this gritty crime thriller overcome some gangster movie tropes?

Brothers by Blood is set, appropriately, in the City of Brotherly Love, and Philadelphia proves to be a perfect setting for this gritty, and often extremely tense, crime thriller. As an eight-year-old, Peter (Matthias Schoenaert) inadvertently played a role in the tragic, accidental death of his sister, and watched his family fall apart around him as a result. Three decades later, and he still wrestlers with that guilt, but finds himself working alongside his cousin in the family business: crime. However, as Michael (Joel Kinnaman) becomes increasingly more dangerous and unhinged, Peter is forced to choose between the man who has been like a brother to him, and others he cares about (not to mention what heading down this dark path will cost him).

There are, unfortunately, plenty of tropes to be found here, and Brothers by Blood doesn't bring anything we haven't seen before to the table. At just 90 minutes, the movie breezes by, and never spends enough time with anyone other than Peter to explore what makes these characters tick and do the things they do. While there are occasional flickers of something like The Departed here, Brothers by Blood's lower budget becomes apparent due to characters frequently telling us what's going on rather than the movie showing us. Luckily, any shortcomings in Jérémie Guez's screenplay (he also directs) are saved by a cast giving it their all. The filmmaker does, however, deliver some great visuals, and an appropriately gritty, authentic feel that does this part of Philly justice. 

Kinnaman does a tremendous job of playing his unhinged, small-time crook, and the subtleties in his performance mean it feels like he could erupt at any second (a scene involving a lethal injection for a horse makes for edge of your seat, tense viewing). As the sole female lead, it's a great shame Maika Monroe isn't given more to do, but she is thankfully written as a more three-dimensional character than your typical gangster movie "love interest." With a meatier role, there's every chance the It Follows star could have stolen the show, but as it stands, she's still an undeniable highlight.
 


It's Schoenaert that Brothers by Blood truly belongs to, and the actor - who you will have likely seen most recently in Netflix's The Old Guard - again proves himself as one of the most talented stars working in Hollywood today. Effortlessly portraying Peter as a flawed, broken man, his decision to do the right thing might have come across as clichéd in less capable hands, but a combination of Schoenaert's performance and Guez's screenplay and direction (which never fails to do this particular character arc justice, at the very least), makes this a story easy to get invested in as the tension mounts and increasingly more difficult decisions are made.

That's reason enough to give the movie a chance, and while there's a lot here that is familiar, this brief insight into this corner of the City of Brotherly Love still makes for compelling viewing. Flashbacks provide another story informing what we're seeing in the present day, and they're surprisingly gripping as we learn what it is that makes Peter someone who jumps from a roof in the opening few minutes for what appears to be the umpteenth time. Another thirty minutes on that scant runtime would have certainly helped expand on some of the ideas presented, while also expanding on the characters or interactions we're told about rather than shown. Luckily, there are still some surprises to be found, and characters you'll find yourselves intrigued by, even if the time we spend with them is a tad too brief. 

Brothers by Blood is light on fresh ideas, but Matthias Schoenaert and Joel Kinnaman's standout performances help the movie overcome its tropes to become a compelling, if somewhat forgettable glimpse into the gritty world of crime in Philadelphia.

Ke1

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