DVD Review: Hermano

STUDIO: Music Box | DIRECTOR: Marcel Rasquin | CAST: Eliu Armas, Fernando Moreno, Gonzalo Cubero, Marcela Giron, Gabriel Rojas, Ali Rondon
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 12/18/2012 | PRICE: DVD $29.95
BONUSES: commentary, interview
SPECS: NR | 94 min. | Foreign language drama | 2.35:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | Spanish with English  subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: two brothers grow up in the tough ghetto streets, where drugs and violence claim new victims every day. But these brothers are special- the best athletes in the barrio. Together, they are an unbeatable duo with a chance at the big leagues, if only they can keep it together. The younger brother believes; he’s innocent, hopeful, a bright light amidst their gritty surroundings. The older brother… not so much. Gangs, guns, that’s the only life he really understands. Can they beat the odds? Escape the inner city? Make their momma proud?

Hermano movie scene

Eliu Armas and Fernando Moreno yearn for a lives as professional footballers in Hermano.

Surprisingly, Hermano, the 2010 Venezuelan film drama by first-time director Marcel Rasquin, manages to present these old clichés through an honest, direct story that Hollywood could never manage. The ghetto is in Caracas, the sport is soccer, and the brothers, Daniel (Fernando Moreno) and Julio (Eliu Armas) are richly portrayed, easy to love, and tough to forget. The filmmaking follows that gritty, frenetic style of low-budget, inner-city filmmaking championed by similar films such as Amores Perros and City of God, yet Hermano never feels like a cheap, formulaic knock-off.

Instead, the film–Venezuela’s official Academy Award selection for Best Foreign Language Film– surprises and grips you throughout, with subtle derivations from said formula you’ve been trained to look for. It’s these little breaths of freshness that makes Hermano such a treat; it’s not an innovative film, but it’s not trying to be. Instead, it aims at the heart; the film loves its characters, getting you to love them in the process. Even the local kingpin, bastard that he is, gives you a little glimpse inside his soul, making him impossible to hate. Without dipping into politics, Hermano gets you to understand its little world, and why its people do the things they do.

Venezuela is a country of extremes- its deep oil reserves brings wealth to part of the country, while the other half struggles in the third-world barrios that haven’t gone away, no matter how many times they’ve appeared in our movies. Soccer is what bridges both sides- rich and poor alike can reach the top if they have what it takes. The soccer scenes here are intense, thrilling, and a perfect yin to the grimy urban yang pervading our two brothers’ lives. Soccer fans will appreciate a film that manages to seamlessly weave the sport into a genuinely good drama, while non-soccer fans will have no problem getting caught up in a story that climaxes with a powerful ending that defies your expectations.

As a DVD bonus feature, you get the director’s commentary and an interview for some insight as to how this little gem came about. It’s clearly a low-budget film, but with this kind of filmmaking, that’s all you need.

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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.