Tuesday, February 22, 2011

From here to fraternity: Will Canon's BROTHERHOOD opens in L.A. and Dallas

Doing for frat houses pretty much what Holocaust movies do for Nazi Germany, BROTHERHOOD, the new knock-your-socks-off movie -- his first full-length -- from Will Canon, starts with a scene that will have you holding your breath but doesn't let you take that breath until its swiftly-paced & sweaty-palmed 79 minutes are over.  "You know what they forgot about?" my companion offered, only minutes before the movie ended. Hello -- "they" didn't forget about a thing, as it turns out, including that "loose end." Mr. Canon, pictured below, is surprisingly deft in how he brings his movie home in a manner as appropriate and believable as it is fair and just.
And riveting.  

The movie begins with a hazing/initiation "prank" that is both beyond stupid and utterly believable, given our current times and the state (Texas, I'm assum-ing, as the movie was filmed there) in which we find ourselves. When things go wrong, escalating like mad, even as the participants are disintegrating badly, the film-maker captures all this with uncan-ny skill and precision, considering how crazy things become.  There is an immediacy to Canon's work and the performances of his up-to-snuff cast that keep the movie barreling ahead like there's no tomorrow -- which for some of these guys, there may not be.

The very speed the director maintains, together with the quite real sense of dislocation and fear that grabs both the pledges and the senior frat boys, pull us so thoroughly into the situation that these easily cover up any logic lapses that may occur (though, while the movie was going on, none were apparent  to me).

The reality built by the screenplay and dialog gives a wonderful sense of improvisation gone right, for a change. And the actors, to a man (plus a couple of excellent performances from women: Katherine Vander Linden, as the butt of a particularly nasty prank, and Jennifer Sipes -- above -- as an angry sorority girl) come through in sterling fashion.

This is a "guy" movie, however, and Canon and cast have done a fine job of differentiating characters surprisingly well, given the little time there is to manage this. Registering most strongly in the ensemble are Trevor Morgan as the pledge torn between fraternity admittance and doing the right thing, Lou Taylor Pucci (above) as the mistaken victim, Arlen Escarpeta (below) as an even more unjust victim, and Jon Foster (two photos below) as the SIC (sleaze-in-charge).

According to the press materials for Brotherhood, the movie is based upon an earlier short made by the filmmaker. For a rare change, here is a full-length film derived from a short that fully deserves its feature status.

In addition to providing a fast, fun ride, the movie nails the nastiness of so many fraternities, along with the sexism, racism and unbearably smug sense of entitlement of which they reek. Hardly a recruiting poster for Wi-Fi-Pi and the rest, Mr. Canon has, besides offering up some savory entertainment, produced a kind of public service announcement.

Brotherhood opens this Friday, February 25, in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Sunset 5, while playing currently in Dallas at the Angelika Film Center, and opening in Brooklyn at the reRun Gastropub on March 11. The film is also available now via VOD. Check with your local TV reception provider for details.

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