Noel Clarke, I sense somewhat reluctantly, picks up the ‘Hood’ baton once more to complete the trilogy he began in Kidulthood over 10 years ago.
Clarke, a one-man black British film industry, has tried to break out from the urban hoodie genre he practically coined but they keep pulling him back in.
Brotherhood sees him reprise his Sam Peel character who, as it begins, is trying to go straight and hold down a few normal, if menial, jobs for the sake of his family, who now live in a nice middle class house, with his lawyer girlfriend Kayla (Shankia Warren-Markland) and two kids.
But Sam’s street past, like Noel’s, comes back to haunt him when his brother is shot in a night club and he discovers that rude boy Curtis (Cornell John) is out of jail and looking for revenge.
Sam reluctantly hoods up and faces the threat, uncovering a seedy porn and crime ring run out of a smart mansion on the same West London streets that also boast the middle class houses and the council blocks.
There’s social observation here, amid an uneasy mix of lurid sexism (girls, naked, “foreign slags”) and some surprisingly-placed humour. Stealing the picture is Arnold Oceng, whom Sam enlists as driver, even though he’s only got a Prius.
You couldn’t call it polished, but there is a lot of heart in Brotherhood, a film about getting too old and trying to change (“nobody says ‘Blood’ anymore, you get me?”), something you sense the film maker himself is (over)anxious to show. Writing and directing himself, Noel has some good moments and well-orchestrated sequences but can’t find a groove or tone to last the whole film.
He also does a lot of glaring and scowling to camera, as well as taking a lot of anger out on Ikea coffee tables and dining chairs while trying to rediscover the old street snarl. You can feel him straining for irony but not always achieving it – for all that, he’s still trying to be “cool”, with a grime soundtrack and Stormzy as part of the cast.
But it’s unfair to dismiss Brotherhood, a film in which you feel the off-screen story seeping onto the screen, and as such there’s a fascination watching a man battle his own artistic and commercial tendencies before finally leaving it all behind.