Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Brothers on London's mean streets

Opening against the artificial pleasures of Iron Man 3, My Brother the Devil offers an opportunity to watch a talented new director -- Sally El Hosaini -- make a worthy addition to a long line of movies that have tried for mean-streets authenticity. Set in London's East End, My Brother the Devil tells the story of two young British-born Arabs dealing with gang life in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood dominated by council flats and drugs. Rashid (James Floyd) runs with a gang, making money selling dope. His younger brother Mo (Fady Elsayed) seems like more of a straight arrow. Described in biographical material as Egyptian/ Welsh, Hosaini brings visual flourish to the story, which delves deeply into the lives of brothers who face intense peer pressures, as well as environmental obstacles. A key question: How far is the infuriated Rashid willing to go to avenge a murdered pal? Floyd's Rashid begins to glimpse alternatives to gang life when he meets a photographer (Saïd Taghmaoui) who's able to look at street life without falling into its traps and who awakens Rashid to a new view of his sexuality. For his part, Mo spirals in the opposite direction, joining the gang DMG, which stands for drugs, money and guns. Gritty when it needs to be, My Brother the Devil deals with a host of issues faced by young people as they try to evolve beyond gang-dominated lives. If the story takes some less than credible turns, Hosaini more than makes up for it by capturing the language, rhythms and dangers of the street. Her characters seldom seem anything less than real.

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