The final instalment in Noel Clarke’s “hood” trilogy arrives 10 years after the first, 2006’s Kidulthood, which earned praise and caused controversy with its frank depiction of drugs, guns and casual sex on a west London estate. Writer, director and star Clarke is now a 40-year-old father of three, so it makes sense that Brotherhood is a slicker and more mature film than Kidulthood and 2008’s Adulthood, its equally compelling sequel. This concluding chapter definitely has a dark side, but it’s preoccupied with ideas of family and neighbourhood loyalty and the importance of doing your duty as a dad.
When we first catch up with Clarke’s flawed hero Sam Peel, a reformed bully with a manslaughter conviction to his name, he’s working several jobs to support his family and facing up to the fact he’s getting older. In one telling and admirably vanity-free early scene, we see Peel comparing his softened body to the more athletic physiques of younger (and presumably less pressured) men at his gym. But when several of his relatives are attacked, seemingly by agents of the same dangerous gang, Peel is forced to rediscover his ruthless streak and return to his criminal past in order to safeguard his family once and for all.
After a slightly deliberate start, Clarke builds tension brilliantly as Peel squares up to snake-like gang leader Daley (Jason Maza) and determined Curtis (Cornell John), a wily old adversary from the previous two movies. Although Brotherhood never shies away from showing violence and nudity, it actually feels less gritty than another recent British crime thriller, 2014’s Hyena. This is probably because Clarke’s humour, though funny, can come off sitcom-like. A running gag in which Sam’s loyal pal Henry (Arnold Oceng) keeps lying to his girlfriend feels old-fashioned, but Stormzy draws big laughs from his first small acting role where he plays a tough guy who’s not exactly what he seems.
Despite these minor gripes, Brotherhood makes for a gripping and fitting conclusion to Clarke’s trilogy; this is a film that keeps you entertained while delivering a genuine and honourable message about taking responsibility for your actions and the people you love.