HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Brother's Keeper
HTS Overall Score:63
I have to say that as a Christian myself, I’m highly critical of faith based movies in general. It’s not because I’m ashamed, or don’t like the message. I’m a firm believer and love the concept, but the fact is, I have rarely seen a Christian fictional movie that I actually enjoyed due to poor storytelling. Now, I don’t blame them that much, being that Hollywood isn’t exactly a wild breeding ground for religious films, but the hackneyed storytelling, filled with more clichés than a 1990’s action movie and a message that just feels forced, pretty much robs me of any real enjoyment. “Brother’s Keeper” is a definite upgrade over the usual entries into the genre, but still ends up being rather lackluster due to the problems that I outlined above.
Pete (Alex Miller) and Andy (Graham Miller) Goodwynn are both orphans living in a small town in 1957, having grown up as poor outcasts. Pete is a good young boy, moving to the next town over to go to seminary and plans to marry Maggie, the love of his life, in the process. Andy is a bit of a rebel, growing up the exact opposite of his brother in terms of personality and spirituality. He’s been in trouble with the law and can’t seem to make much of himself. Tragedy and injustice strikes the twins when Pete is framed for a murder that he didn’t commit and ends up in prison. Fighting this tooth and nail, neither brother has any chance of headway as the real criminal is the son of the rich southern Baron who pretty much owns the town lock stock and barrel. Pete is sent to jail and given a swift sentence for execution.
Andy, not knowing what to do, takes up Pete’s mantle at Seminary and despite his own religious disbeliefs, tries to honor his brother in this respect. While in prison, Pete starts to feel a bit bitter and depressed about his situation (as anyone likely would) and ends up trying to take his own life out of grief and agony. His failed attempt gives him the chance to meet a fellow inmate (played by country star Travis Tritt) where the boy learns a valuable lesson about a person’s value and the meaning of hope. On the other side of the wall, Andy is learning more than he bargained for at seminary. Beliefs that were once not his own take on a whole new life and his life no longer is his own as he gives it to Christ. Realizing that there is no greater love than for a brother, Andy comes up with a daring plan to get Pete out of jail, just not in the way that one would expect when someone says “escape”.
“Brother’s Keeper” is not a bad movie, but it does suffer from the major caveat that most Christian movies suffer from. That is, it has a particular message it wants to get across and the lack of a polished Hollywood crew, with established writers creates an amateur stage after many of us have spent years watching much better productions. The message itself is fantastic. The lesson of forgiveness and brotherly love is something that is universal. Hatred will eat you up and spit you out if you don’t learn to forgive, and it is a lesson that many of learn late in life after expending so much energy fighting an injustice with anger that is completely unnecessary. I’ve spent YEARS of my life struggling with injustices, as I’m an extremely passionate person, and the hatred that can build up is excruciating if we do not let it go, so I can completely emphasize with the boys. HOWEVER, there were just too much melodrama to really enjoy the message.
Acting wise, it’s a mixed book. Everything is so over the top that you’re not sure whether it’s OVER acting, or underacting. The twin boys are alright, and do a decent job playing their roles, but the villain (played by veteran actor Ray Wise) was so mustache twirling evil that, and the corrupt cops were so storybook villain caricatures that I was rolling my eyes at every turn. The story makes no bones about trying to make the situation as completely horrible for the twins as it possibly can be. It felt as if the director was trying to push all the right buttons with the audience to make them loathe the injustice done to them, and be angry with those who would do such a thing to make a point about forgiveness, that the story itself took a back seat. Travis Tritt isn’t exactly an actor, but he did a solid job with his limited role as mentor to Peter.
Rated PG-13 for thematic material, violence, disturbing images, and some teen drinking and smoking.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=51521[/img]“Brother’s Keeper” sports a fairly solid 1.85:1 encoded DVD with a heavily color graded look to it. Set in the 1950’s it is given a soft, earthy brown look to the movie, trying to give it that weathered and worn look to the production. Most of the colors are decent enough, especially the prom dresses for Maggie and the rest of the girls, but a lot of the film is covered with that shimmery earth toned colors, leaving the image a tad bland at times. Black levels are good, but show signs of being a little washed out and I did notice some digital noise and banding in the darker scenes. However, the detail is quite solid for a DVD and leaves little to the imagination.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=51529[/img]The 5.1 Dolby digital track is quite impressive, and gives us just what one would expect for a straight up drama. The track is exceptionally front heavy with TONS of dialog throughout the movie, and that dialog is replicated beautifully. The thick southern accents can sometimes make one want to hit the subtitle button, but that is no fault of the mix itself. Surrounds get some mild ambient action, but nothing that will make you sit up and notice, which is the same for the LFE channel. There’s some heavy downbeats now and again, but this is mainly a low budget drama, so there really isn’t much besides some weight to the simple sounds, like prison bars clanging shut and the like.
“Brother’s Keeper” isn’t an insulting film, or one that crosses any lines, but rather plays it a bit too safe and clichéd to give it that much impact. The low budget and off the beaten path directing is partially to blame considering the inexperience of some of them, but the end result just isn’t that entertaining, to both people of faith and those without. Audio and video are solid for a DTV release like this, and the lack of extras is pretty standard fare. I can’t recommend the movie itself, even though I like the message, due to the pedestrian directing of the film, but it is decent enough for a cheap rental if you’re so inclined.
Starring: Michael Rooker, Ray Wise, Travis Tritt
Director: T.J. Amato, Josh Mills
Written By: Josh Mills, Briana Hartman
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 MPEG2
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 120 Minutes
DVD Release Date: August 4th, 2015
Buy Brother's Keeper DVD on Amazon
Recommendation: Mild Rental
More about Mike