Review: Woeful 'Brothers by Blood' sings the gangster blues

Matthias Schoenaerts stars in Philadelphia-set gangster tale that is shrouded in misery

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

A miserable gloom parade of dark, dreary, cold, uninteresting characters and situations, "Brothers by Blood" bleeds to death before your eyes. 

Director Jérémie Guez paints his Philadelphia-set gangster tale with authentic-enough colors, but he fails to find a convincing reason to tell this story, of these Philadelphia gangsters, at this time.   

Matthias Schoenaerts in "Brothers By Blood."

Even the characters seem to want out. We begin on a rooftop as Jimmy (Paul Schneider) explains a recent visit to the proctologist to his pals Peter (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Peter's cousin Michael ("Suicide Squad's" Joel Kinnaman). The Tarantino-style riff doesn't have a punchline or any particular end in sight, so Peter jumps off the ledge onto the street below — a rather strange habit, but one it turns out he engages in semi-frequently. 

Fun guy, this Peter. He spends most of his time quietly brooding about his role in the local Irish mob, which is run by Michael. Michael, meanwhile, is a psycho who gets off on power trips and violence, his only joy coming when he gets his hands on a substance that can knock a horse dead with just a few drops. Oh, the fun he could have with that!

Fun, however, is a foreign concept to this movie and these people. It's Peter's tale, and we learn in a backstory that weaves (and weaves, and weaves) through the movie of his tragic past and why he's such a reluctant mobster. Which is fine, if a quiet character study is the aim. 

The major disconnect in Guez's telling is that the audience is given no way in, no reason to care about Peter or the rest of these goons. Given the choice of spending time with them or jumping off the roof, you might find yourself peering over the edge.


'Brothers by Blood'


Rated R: for pervasive language, some violence, sexual references and brief drug use

Running time: 90 minutes