Review: Matthias Schoenaerts overcomes shallow 'Brothers By Blood'
Courtesy of Vertical Entertainment
From “The Mustang” to “The Danish Girl,” actor Matthias Schoenaerts can elevate any picture, good or bad. In the case of Jérémie Guez’s “Brothers By Blood” that’s exactly what happens. Formally titled “The Sound of Philadelphia,” Guez’s film is an exploration of a family dynasty plagued by crime and corruption, a watered down “Goodfellas” so to speak.
Schoenaerts is the glue holding things together as Peter, your typical macho and somber tough guy who spends his morning getting swole at the local boxing gym (don’t they always?) But Schoenaerts doesn’t phone in an easily disposable character with lackluster motivations, instead he brings truth to the screen.
Whereas Peter doesn’t want to engage in the reckless behavior that got his father (Ryan Phillipe in flashbacks) killed, his cousin (a.k.a brother by blood) Michael (Joel Kinnaman doing whatever it is Joel Kinnaman does) wants to be a disruptor to the system, constantly exploiting Peter’s muscle to anyone who dares instigate. He’s on the hunt for power and his family birthright and entourage of thugs certainly give him a boost.
What starts as a delicate relationship between Peter and Michael, slowly rots away throughout “Brothers by Blood.” Aforementioned flashbacks to Peter’s fractured childhood hint to where things went awry, and highlight what needs to be done in order to fix turmoil with a local Italian mob who want Michael out of the picture. There's minimal surprises as to where things land, but the camaraderie displayed between Kinnaman and Schoenaerts certainly gives “Brothers by Blood” an advantage over countless genre imitators.
Paul Schneider and Maika Monroe have brief supporting roles as a brother and sister duo trying to navigate a grungy Philadelphia terrain, the ladder written as a romantic love interest for Peter though Monroe - best known for “It Follows” - manages to find a silver of dignity in the character. But the movie belongs to both Kinnaman and Schoenaerts playing the stereotypical (and not believable) Irish-Americans duo on the prowl for change in a city that’s constantly evolving. They salvage an otherwise hollow script and give “Brothers by Blood” something to root for.
BROTHERS BY BLOOD opens in select theaters and debuts digitally and on-demand Friday, January 22nd.