By Andrew Buckner
Rating: **** out of *****.
The one-hundred and fourteen-minute debut feature from thirty-year-old writer-director Keith Sutliff, The Mason Brothers (2017), is a handsomely fashioned, if all too familiar, revenge tale. Deriving inspiration from Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987) and Quentin Tarantino’s oft-mimicked Reservoir Dogs (1992), the KS Pictures production has all the tough talk and sudden bouts of violence expected from a crime story of this ilk. In this arena, Sutliff’s endeavor soars. The opus also triumphs in its Tarantino-like ability to entertain via dialogue. A great example of this would be in the many cases throughout the exertion where Sutliff’s fictional personas describe the failed scheme that takes place immediately before the commencement of the piece. Where lesser filmmakers would punctuate such arrangements with actual flashbacks to the event out of fear of losing audience intrigue, Sutliff forces spectators to participate by imagining the episode themselves. Such occurs via the verbal illustrations painted by our central figures in their frequent discussions among one another. The backstories of our leads and related expository instances are similarly addressed to equally potent consequence in this manner.
In turn, Sutliff creates a slick, classically designed caper. It is one which is as gripping when the fists fly as it is in its quieter episodes. Yet, this otherwise engaging movie, despite its penchant for narrative, never feels as if it fleshes out its characters in any satisfactory way. Yet, this works masterfully to make those we follow on-screen enigmatic. The same can be said for the relatively routine arc of events. Correspondingly, this celluloid vehicle offers no true surprises. Still, it succeeds far more frequently than it falters.
Sutliff chronicles Ren (in an intense, commanding performance from Sutliff), Jesse (in an exceptional depiction from Brandon Sean Pearson) and Orion Mason (in a brilliant, consistently compelling representation from Michael Ryan Whelan). They are a group of close brothers and expert robbers. When their botched plan to steal $10,000,000 via a Los Angeles bank results in the death of one of the members of this outlaw clique, it becomes evident that this fatal event was anything but an accident. This soon becomes believed to be a set-up. Seeking payback, Ren, the eldest and head of the team, hires a bounty hunter, Jerry (in a captivating enactment from Tim Park). His assignment is to uncover who was involved in this tragic incident. But, these fervently sought-after answers come with unwanted results. Soon one felonious mind is battling with another. This is as a rival neighborhood gang is declared to be the guilty party.
Co-producer Sutliff augments this intriguing plot with a script that is confidently paced. Though it concludes on a predictable note, the undertaking remains an all-around solid venture. This is largely a courtesy of the plethora of brutal, deftly executed action scenes Sutliff incorporates throughout the runtime. There is also an unwavering, no-nonsense atmosphere found in the labor. Such is a signpost of Sutliff’s taut, claustrophobic and ever-stylish guidance of the project. When combined with the dark, mood-setting cinematography from Errol Webber Jr. and Federico Vaona’s immersive music, the effort continues to astonish. Complete with a magnificent portrayal from Carlotta Montanari as Allena, splendid visual effects from John Myers and sharp editing from Gio Arias, the affair endures as a consistently dazzling genre outing. I highly recommend seeking it out.
The Mason Brothers will be released on Video on Demand in the United States of America, Germany/ Austria, Japan and in the United Kingdom on August 2nd, 2017 through Adler & Associates.
(R). Contains graphic language and violence.