Review: Brothers by Blood

STUDIO: Vertical Entertainment | DIRECTOR: Jérémie Guez | CAST: Joel Kinnaman, Ryan Phillippe, Maika Monroe, Matthias Schoenaerts, Paul Schneider
RELEASE DATE: Jan. 22, 2021
SPECS: R | 105 min. | Crime drama

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie   1/2

A dark and gritty slice of life, Philly style, Brothers in Blood is an intense but uneven crime drama centered on two Irish cousins who grew up together and can’t seem to escape the influence of their organized crime backgrounds.

Maika Monroe and Matthias Schoenaerts in Brothers by Blood.

Based on a novel by former Philadelphia Daily News columnist Pete Dexter (Paris Trout), this effort stars Matthias Schoenaerts (A Little Chaos) as Peter Baker, an Irish mobster living in Southwest Philly, who is haunted by the death of his young sister decades ago. His cousin Michael (Joel Kinnaman, The Informer), raised as a sibling to Peter, serves as the leader of the crime family involved in union corruption, which finds itself enmeshed in a nasty power tussle with Italian hoods muscling in on the cousins’ turf.

Brothers by Blood, known previously as The Sound of Philadelphia, is a slice-of-life survey of everyday corruption in a big city in which unsparing violence is the norm to get things done. There are no big shoot-outs, car chases or action sequences here, but in the French writer-director Jeremie Guez’s (The Night Eats the World) world, dangerous angry threats and sudden gun blasts go a long way.

The film is likely to remind audiences of such classics as Mean Streets, On the Waterfront and with a boxing subplot thrown in for good measure, area-based fave Rocky. While the two lead actors—Schoenaerts from Belgium and Kinnaman from Sweden—may not be the most likely candidates to play Irish thugs living in one of the rougher neighborhoods in the “City of Brotherly Love,” they do a solid job hiding their native accents with slight regional inflections.

For the most part, however, Brothers in Blood is an edgy but fairly low-key affair that could use some livening up fairly regularly. It actually would have helped the picture if the sound of Philadelphia was turned up louder and more frequently.

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.