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Movie Review: Brotherhood goes for the Jugular, even if it feels Incomplete

BROTHERHOOD: OFFICIAL TRAILER - YouTube
                                                                 Brotherhood

For Jade Osiberu, this is meant to be the final act. For the renowned filmmaker, Brotherhood is meant to be her swansong or her last in a while – in terms of Nollywood cinematic releases. Gangs of Lagos remain highly anticipated, but that won’t be in cinemas, as it becomes another of the works that will herald the era of the relationship between Amazon Prime and Nigerian motion projects. So, Brotherhood can definitely read like a radical parting gift, being a movie from a genre that isn’t a Nollywood staple: ACTION.

There are reasons why action movies are not commonplace (read: non-existent) in the industry; from financial setbacks, to setting drawbacks; from filmmaking self-restraint, to restrictive measures. It is such a hampered field in this part of the world that a production would likely be insufficiently innovative at best, or outright absurd at worst; with tales of pale imitation littered around it. Yet, Brotherhood – produced by Osiberu and directed by Loukman Ali – does try to get its teeth into things in that regard. It’s not quite bold enough (for aforementioned reasons), but it’s visible enough to qualify as relatively ground-breaking. And it speaks to Osiberu’s record as someone who helms projects that have some sense of nascence and breaths of fresh air around them.

However, what doesn’t really hold back in this movie is its acting. If action movies in Nollywood want to be like that of Hollywood, one area they shouldn’t be inspired by might be the acting; whereby it seems all flashbang and little substance. This is where Brotherhood shines; for all the promise of ground-breaking action, it is the performance of its cast – which includes Tobi Bakare, Folarin ‘Falz’ Falana, Toni Tones, Debo ‘Mr Macaroni’ Adedayo, and Sam Dede, among others – that truly threatens to make the earth move beneath our feet.

For Tobi Bakare, this feels like his movie. For a film that’s supposed to split the primary attention between himself and Falz, it seems like he was intent on being the bearer of the spotlight here. The personification of a smart, yet hot-headed, calculating, yet egotistical, bad guy you’re supposed to feel for, if not outright adore is nigh-on impossible to miss. There’s something about Bakare’s role as Akin ‘Kalashnikov’ that makes you feel a tinge of – if not disappointment – incompletion that this movie doesn’t do him enough justice. Falz doesn’t do badly, either, providing a performance that indicated a realisation that he might be getting boxed in and stereotyped in Nollywood, and he needed to smash that notion of him. If that was the intention, he hit the mark.

But the smudge of disappointment that comes with Brotherhood is the overt tease and little show that it does. There’s something about this movie that seems like foreplay, then graduates into simply dousing the fire it’s meant to ignite, and goes from making its audience wanting more to leaving them rather unsatisfied. Brotherhood wants to talk about class relations, even in family; it wants to talk about the impact of criminalisation and the stigma that brings; it wants to talk the class character of crime and life steeped in one; about the negligent policing and abandon for poor neighborhoods. It wants to. It really wants to. But it doesn’t quite do so.

Instead, we get one-liners, brief scenes, rushed sequences. Moments that want to and should  dally on those points are ushered out of the room before they begin to make their point. This sense of hurriedness impacts the film as a whole, even without the social commentary that was planned; hence, we go back to the point of Brotherhood not doing Tobi Bakare justice.

For a movie that wants to paint a sympathetic, especially one with a stigma around him, Brotherhood doesn’t quite create a sufficient backstory to make us identify with, or properly understand our central character. We get one flashback scene, one hushed conversation, and that’s it. There’s little else, to come, and the ending doesn’t quite do the trick either. This movie also seems to shun aside much of its subplots; the Kamsi-Wale and Goldie-Kala love stories, the animosity at work surrounding Wale and Simon. Much of this movie feels incomplete.

Yet, Brotherhood can pat itself on the back for a decent job. The action doesn’t hold back – for better or worse – and its portrayal of a criminal crew that knows what it’s doing, and a setup towards a climaxing combat is quite good.

In many ways, it feels like a first proper action thriller in Nollywood; it may leave a lot to be desired, but it provides much to dwell on as well. And if this is Jade Osiberu’s parting gift for Nigerian cinemas, that end should be a catalyst for the start of something.

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