“Nobody is who you imagine them to be. We are probably a bit of a mystery even to ourselves.  In the end what matters is how many marks you’ve left behind.”

Someone trying to leave as few marks behind as possible is Sam (Tygh Runyan). A Canadian living alone in London, his life is simple, almost monastic, working as a cloakroom attendant at the Tate by day, working on his own art at night, his only social escape the occasional evening dancing to Northern Soul in hip and trendy Shoreditch which is where he meets young deaf French dancer Claire (Noemi Merlant), who may not be able to hear the music but definitely feels it, shaking him out of his self-imposed hermitage.

But Adam has secrets and a dodgy past in the family business. Adam’s family business is arms dealing and his past is catching up to him, first in the shapely form of femme fatale Tabitha (The Inbetweeners Belinda Stewart-Wilson) then his twitchy, high-functioning autistic brother Eli (Jed Rees). Eli needs Adam’s help on one last job. Their father Jack (Anthony Stewart Head) is in trouble but early-onset Alzheimer’s means that he can’t quite remember why.

Reluctantly, Adam finds himself being sucked back into a world of violence and treachery he thought he had escaped, a world in which he is maybe just a little too comfortable…

Writer/director Ryan Bonder’s The Brother may rely on that old thriller cliché of the reformed bad man forced to do one last job out of a sense of duty but it’s coolly, crisply shot by Brian Johnson and refreshingly free of the usual bish-bosh-bang-wallop, Charlie Big Potatoes gangster clichés that blight practically every British crime movie since Lock, Stock. Bonder’s film is an icy gem of a thriller; cold, brutal and shimmering, the surface shine masking it’s hard heart. It’s thugs and killers play classical piano rather than ruck on the football terraces but, when the nail guns come out, you still don’t want to be on the receiving end.

It’s the quieter moments that grab you however, the silent scenes of the deaf Claire feeling the throb of music from the speaker she embraces, Adam searching a crowded St. Pancras station for his estranged father, being distracted by the beauty of his brother playing piano, attracting a crowd of travellers in the centre of the concourse and looking up to see the vulpine Jack an appreciative member of the audience, a grizzled Anthony Stewart Head hanging his head out of a car window like a dog.

As Adam, Runyan is something of a cipher, an almost reptilian blank, an untrustworthy protagonist who obviously enjoys the violence he comes to inflict, like an addict taking that first long lusted after hit after a dry spell, he’s missed the man he was, works up more of a sweat when beating a bound victim than when he makes loves to Claire, his aggressive sport-fucking of Tabitha hinting at the animal he keeps at bay. Twitchy and anxious, Rees is a nervy, vital presence, pathetic more than sympathetic, while Anthony Stewart Head is unpredictable and vicious. It’s Stewart-Wilson, Will’s MILF from Channel 4’s The Inbetweeners, who impresses most, blowing through the film, stealing every scene she’s in whether she’s being rattled from behind over the couch, hosting a frosty dinner party or gunning someone down.

Elegant, chilly and smooth, The Brother is a low-key delight.

Movie Review: The Brother
4.0Overall Score
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