Vertical Entertainment and director Jérémie Guez adapt the 1991 Pete Dexter novel Brotherly Love for the big screen in Brothers by Blood. In the City of Brotherly Love, eight-year-old Peter Flood (Nicholas Corvetti) helplessly watches as his little sister is killed by a neighbor’s reckless driving. Tormented with grief and resentment, his father (Ryan Phillippe) finds revenge as the only solution, leaving lasting generational wounds.
Thirty years later, Peter (Matthias Schoenaer) still wrestles with the guilt he feels over his sister’s death and his father’s vengeance. As he tries to distance himself from the criminal family business, his cousin, Michael (Joel Kinnaman), becomes more powerful in the hierarchy. Bonded by blood, neither man can escape violence as they are dragged further into a chilling cycle of betrayal and retribution.
I walked into Brothers by Blood off the cast’s strength and had no idea what the film was going to be about. Initially, I was under the impression the film would follow the standard gangster trying to go straight storyline. Our hero must deal with the obstacle of a family member trying to pull him back into the crime game and for the most part, that is the general plot of the film. Sadly, the film is a jumbled mess and its cast deserves much better than what comes across on the screen.
Let’s start with the script, which is a crucial component of a successful film. The film’s director Jérémie Guez also wrote the script, and he condenses a 274-page novel into a ninety-minute feature. As a film buff and avid reader, I know the book is usually better. As I watched the film, it’s crystal clear that a lot was lost in the editing, as the film’s pacing and narrative structure are off and bland. Perhaps the better way to go was a miniseries instead, as there is potential for a good story here.
I also had issues with the director’s choice to follow a non-linear storyline. We see scenes of a young Peter interacting with his father (Ryan Phillippe). These scenes took me out of the storyline that is occurring in the present day. This was a problem that could’ve easily been corrected in the editing stages. Furthermore, we are robbed of Ryan Phillippe’s acting talent in a role that ends up equating to maybe fifteen minutes of actual screen time.
The very talented Matthias Schoenaer and Joel Kinnaman do what they can with the mundane material. Kinnaman is an excellent villain as always, while Schoenaer plays a humble everyman dealing with his demons. Malika Monroe also shows up as a childhood friend of the boys, but similar to her male co-stars, the role is underwritten. There’s also a sixteen-year age difference between Monroe & Schoenaer in real life. However, the two do have chemistry, and I will give credit for Jérémie Guez’s handling of the character’s budding relationship.
Despite having a talented cast, Brothers by Blood is an early contender for a spot in my year’s worst list. With a slow plot and terrible editing, the film is a jumbled mess.
Final Grade D-
Brothers by Blood opens in Select Theaters today January 22, 2021
The film is also available On VOD & Digital .