It’s a tale as ancient as time, or at least as old as that book with the Cain and Abel story: Rashid (James Floyd) and his adoring kid brother, Mo (Fady Elsayed)—sons of Egyptian immigrants living in London’s projects—become locked in a fraternal standoff. The former is a big-deal local gangster; impressed by his sibling’s cash stacks and street cred, Mo can’t wait to enter the thug life. Only Rashid is determined to keep his younger family member on the straight and narrow, while a Moroccan photographer (La Haine’s Saïd Taghmaoui) also offers a way out for the older ’banger. Neither of these things sit well with Mo.
Even those who aren’t well-versed in the-’hood-always-wins dramas can see what’s coming. So it’s to newcomer Sally El Hosaini’s credit that she embeds a tangible, lived-in sense of the region’s diaspora community and urban criminal underbelly (wagwan, near-indecipherable East End patois!) that’s leagues away from anthropological fetishizing. Still, there’s one middle-act, left-field plot twist—no spoilers here—that may give you pause, only because it feels grafted on from another movie altogether. You want the revelation to add depth or nuance to My Brother the Devil’s various obstacles, be they the burden of blood ties or how cultures and subcultures clash. All it does is add one more soap-operatic element in a film already brimming with narrative conflicts; the half-dozen strains of hand-wringing already in place would have more than sufficed.
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