Language and Run Time: English, 82 minutes
Director: Will Canon
Writer: Will Canon, Douglas Simon
Cast: Trevor Morgan (Adam), Jon Foster (Frank), Lou Taylor Pucci (Kevin), Arlen Escarpeta (Mike), Jessie Steccato (Bean), Jennifer Sipes (Emily), Luke Sexton (Graham)
“Brotherhood” – “an association, society, or community of people linked by common interests, religion, or trade.” If this movie does only one thing well it is to show that this definition does not give a complete picture of true brotherhood. The real definition should be expanded to include consideration of overall ,as well as individual member, best interest, selflessness for a brother, and integrity of action that is consistent with the actions that take full responsibility for decisions and support the rights and well being of members above all other considerations.
When Adam persisted in fighting to take Kevin to the hospital for the duration of the movie, that was true brotherhood; saying “f*** the cops, he needs a doctor!” Graham, and the fraternity President, Frank, however, was not acting on the principles of brotherhood when they delayed in taking their injured pledge to the hospital in favor of quickly, shoddily concocted self-fixes; rather, what they displayed was selfish self-interest being disguised as “doing what’s best for the brotherhood”. Granted, attempting to rectify a botched pledge hazing ritual where a staged store robbery went wrong and a pledge was actually shot might be tempting, especially when underscored by the line of “doing it for the good of the fraternity and keeping everyone from going to jail.” However, I believe that true brotherhood in this case means realizing and admitting to grave mistakes and taking the heat of the law in order to guarantee that a pledge brother survives the night instead of playing around with his life when he should be getting proper medical care.
The basic run down of the story goes like this: pledges are supposed to commit a fake armed robbery, but they do not know that until another brother catches them before running inside and hands them a bag of money instead of actually robbing a gas station. A miscommunication leads to the most reticent pledge committing an actual armed robbery in which a terrified clerk shoots him. One of the other pledges races inside to find his pledge brother hurt and a friend, the clerk, being beaten by Frank for shooting him.
From the attempted cover ups come the kidnapping and beating of the clerk, a car accident involving a doctor coming to see the injured boy, and an angry sorority mob leader wanting her house’s toilet seats back almost exposing the whole incident. The problems mount when a former Sigma Zeta Chi fraternity member and current police officer stops by the house to answer a complaint from the sorority, sees the unreported gunshot wound, and finds out about the theft of money from the gas station robbery. And just when all the fires, health issues of the injured brother, and cover up liabilities surrounding the clerk and the cops are almost resolved, they discover that a pledge has died after being locked in a car trunk with bottles of alcohol holding the key to his escape. He was forgotten during the night’s events and so was left to die in the trunk. Upon discovery, Adam is finally able to make a call to the authorities without being beaten again by the President for wanting to “snitch” and “ruin everything.”
From a visual point of view the film was excellent. Quality and lighting was great, reflecting the dark mood of the intense situations, while also keeping the screen clear to see all that was going on. I loved the unsteady camera movements that captured the hectic, frantic nature of desperate situation after desperate situation. From the fights to the running back and forth to the agonizing Kevin, camera angles and motion caught the pain, frustration, fear, and high tension permeating the experience and bringing the audience right into the action.
I believe that the “perfect storm” style of snowballing disasters was slightly too unlucky to be completely believable. However, it did not actually detract from the enjoyment or the message of the film, rather, it provided the best way to most effectively communicate the integral lessons learned from the movie. One of the most important points was the emphasis on the fact that the right thing should always be done regardless of cost; and just as importantly, that it should be done immediately from the start. If the mistake had been admitted, accepted, and addressed by taking Kevin to the hospital immediately then a whole host of issues, and felonies (kidnapping, assault, murder, obstruction of justice, etc.), could have been prevented and a life might have been saved. This film was beautifully crafted to show the dangers and consequences of “escalated commitment,” when sunk costs such as time, energy, and risk become irrelevant because they cannot be undone, yet as humans we feel that we are in too deep to pull out – that we must go “all in” so to speak, because we’ve come too far.
Adam was clearly the moral protagonist of the movie pitted against the stubborn President, Frank. In many situations we witness his willingness to put himself on the line to do what was necessary for the fraternity. Whether it was going back to talk to his clerk friend, risking a daring return of the cash, trying to take care of Kevin, or figuring out how to work things out, he was no mere pledge but a leader by example. I would also argue that he had the strongest vision of brotherhood since he did not do all of those things for the sake of covering things up or bailing out the fraternity, but because he was doing everything to get his friend Kevin to the hospital as soon as possible. He realized after a few altercations with Frank that he could not get Kevin to a hospital by himself without being blocked out by Frank and the other brothers.
So he did the best that he could to speed up the process and take risks to make bargains happen in the hopes that they would finally consent to take Kevin to the hospital. Two sucg incidents include when he volunteered to take on the risky task of returning the stolen money to one of the stores and when he tried to help both Mike and Kevin by trying to get Mike to say something to please the other brothers before they beat him so that he could walk away as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, in this last situation we see that he is not a flat character, but that he does make mistakes despite his protagonist actions and intentions. While we realize that he was pressuring Mike to say something into the recorder for both Kevin and Mike’s benefit, he went about it the wrong way in some cases. He was too harsh at times, failed to trust his friend when he claimed innocence regarding the allegations of a few years ago, and when he began losing his patience as he felt the pressure of Kevin’s life hanging in the balance. I believe that he could have been more understanding of Mike’s situation and concerns back in the store and then again in the basement of the fraternity house, but overall, especially given the constraints and pressure surrounding the high stakes of his friend’s life, he did the best that he could to do the right thing and continually progress toward the quickest, most ethical and beneficial resolution to such a nightmare situation. In the end his perseverance pays off as he defies Frank and calls the police to report the tragedy of that night and get his friend the life-saving medical attention he needed. Without a doubt, I would highly recommend this movie to anyone! The drama, emotion, and lessons in this movie are well worth the two hours of your time.