Brotherhood feels like a slice of gritty urban angst too far

Writer, director and actor Noel Clarke in the third instalment of his London trilogy Brotherhood
Damon Smith

THIRD time's no charm for director, writer and actor Noel Clarke as he concludes his streetwise trilogy, which began 10 years ago with Kidulthood and continued forlornly two years later with Adulthood.

The final chapter is self-indulgent and lacks dramatic momentum, with a sluggish running time that feels considerably longer than 105 minutes.

The youthful swagger and urgency of earlier pictures has completely evaporated from Brotherhood, which returns to the unforgiving streets of London in the company of a beleaguered father, who is trying to break the cycle of violence that landed him in prison.

Clarke's penchant for spewing 20 words of dialogue when five will suffice is still in evidence and at least one scene teeters on the brink of risibility for its tearful earnestness.

The script gives pitifully short shrift to the female characters, who are two-dimensional and repeatedly objectified. Clarke relishes superfluous shots of sex workers strutting around naked or performing degrading acts.

Were it not for a memorable supporting turn from Arnold Oceng and an amusing running gag about the desirability of a supermarket reward card, this would be an interminable slog from beginning to laughable end.

Sam Peel (Clarke) has pieced his life back together following his spell behind bars with the help of his mother (Adjoa Andoh), lawyer girlfriend Kayla (Shanika Warren-Markland) and their two children.

"My job is to protect and provide for this family," Sam angrily tells Kayla when she questions his commitment to their future.

Ghosts of the past return to haunt the former jailbird when gun-toting thugs shoot his brother and leave behind a threatening message that reads WE'RE NOT DONE.

It transpires that old adversary Uncle Curtis (Cornell John) and local gangland leader Daley (Jason Maza) are determined to lure Sam back to the dark side by threatening the safety of his loved ones.

A femme fatale called Janette (Tonia Sotiropoulou) tests Sam's loyalty, while Daley unleashes his underlings including the menacing Hugs (Leeshon Alexander) and whip-smart Poppy (Rosa Caduri).

Faced with losing everything, Sam feels he has no choice but to revert to threats and intimidation to survive, and he calls upon wisecracking best friend Henry (Oceng) as his brother in dire straits.

Brotherhood is one slice of gritty urban angst too far for Clarke.

The leading man puts himself through an emotional wringer without once tugging our heartstrings. John's supporting turn as the vengeance-seeking antagonist is one wide-eyed snarl short of thigh-slapping pantomime villain.

Explosions of violence don't always serve the ramshackle narrative and any pertinent moral conundrums about meeting force with greater force are lost amid the navel-gazing and gratuitous nudity.

BROTHERHOOD (15, 105 mins) Drama/Thriller/Romance. Noel Clarke, Shanika Warren-Markland, Arnold Oceng, Cornell John, Jaza Maza, Olivia Chenery, Tonia Sotiropoulou, Adjoa Andoh, Leeshon Alexander, Rosa Coduri. Director: Noel Clarke



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