By Gary Murray

Starring Jon Foster, Lou Taylor Pucci, Arlen Escarpeta and Trevor Morgan

Written and directed by Will Cannon

Running time 81 min

MPAA Rating R

Selig Film Rating FULL PRICE

I give local independent films a different scale than the big budget blockbusters that Hollywood churns out. Where the professionals in La La Land have all the resources and wherewithal to have just about anything put on the screen, the local guys have to use their ingenuity and a bit of good luck to get a film finished, much make it a watchable experience. That said, Brotherhood is the best film I have seen so far in 2011.

The story is of a college frat prank that goes horribly wrong. Frank (Jon Foster) is the Alpha Male dog of the frat house who is almost gleeful in his torture of the pledge class. He and the upper-classmen are taking the new guys around in a van and making them go inside and rob a corner store for $19.10, the year Sigma Zeta Chi fraternity was formed. It is just a set-up and a frat member is inside, letting the pledge know it was just a little trick.

Unfortunately Frank goes to the wrong store and sends Kevin (Lou Taylor Pucci) into the store where there is no brother, just a night-shift clerk. The guy behind the counter is Mike (Arlen Escarpeta). A gun battle ensues where Kevin is shot. They run back to the house.

Pledge member Adam (Trevor Morgan) wants to take the wounded Kevin to the hospital. Frank wants to do everything to protect the fraternity. Some members go back to the little store to get the security tapes while other frat boys try to find a doctor who will look at Kevin and keep his mouth shut. Since this is during Hell Week, other elements of humiliation begin to compound the situation. Every time the brothers of the fraternity have everything plugged up, another opening starts the boat sinking again.

Writer/Director Will Cannon puts his stamp on the world with Brotherhood. Using just about every trick in the film-makers handbook, he crafts a web of action with tension to spare. He adds complication upon complication to the night of Sigma Zeta Chi to an almost comical effect but it works to keep the flow of the picture. He never drops into a lower gear as he propels his cast down this dark road. It is just brilliant craftsmanship. When he throws the final volley of his screenplay at the audience it is as unexpected as it is logical.

The other element that makes Brotherhood work is the casting. Jon Foster is such a smarmy self-centered frat boy one would have expected him to be fighting the Delta House a few decades ago. His 'do everything not to get in trouble' mantra is basically his undoing. One knows that he is going to get his comeuppance, just not the when and where.

Trevor Morgan does a stand-out job as the voice of reason in this reasonless world. He sees the errors of what his fellow brothers are doing but is almost totally helpless in correcting this sinking ship.

Brotherhood is just a film that shouldn't be missed. It takes the audience on a wild ride of bad choices that never lets up until the very last moment. A roller coaster of emotions, it will keep you guessing until the next wild turn. The best way to describe it is a black comedy full of action and suspense, a true thriller.

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