Friday, January 25, 2013

Together Brothers (1974)



          The inner-city drama/thriller Together Brothers brings together a number of disparate elements, and though the picture doesn’t hold together well, it makes for an oddly memorable viewing experience. When the story begins, we meet Mr. Kool (Ed Bernard), an African-American beat cop who uses a human touch while patrolling a tough black ghetto. Fair and hip, he’s respected even by criminals and street kids. Yet one night, Kool is murdered—right before the eyes of grade-schooler Tommy (Anthony Wilson). Kool’s assailant flees, and the police are slow to follow up on leads, so Tommy’s older brother, teenager A.J. (Ahmad Narradin), and his pals decide to track down Kool’s killer. Among other things, they’re afraid the murderer might track Tommy down to eliminate a witness. After this interesting set-up, the movie drifts into a lively section during which A.J. and his buddies seek aid from their rivals, a Hispanic street gang led by Vega (Richard Yniguez). So far, so good, right? Well, we’ve reached the point where Together Brothers becomes offensive—the killer is revealed to be a flamboyant homosexual named Billy (Lincoln Kilpatrick), who goes back and forth between brutal rage and prissy crying jags.
          Yes, Together Brothers continues the vile tradition of stereotyping gay men as unstable freaks. And that’s a bummer, because up until Together Brothers goes wrong, it’s thoroughly arresting. Director William A. Graham shoots the hell out of the picture’s grimy urban locations, depicting vibrant souls living in defiance of crushing poverty. Furthermore, the action scenes are taut, and while the juvenile performances are spotty, adult players Bernard, Kilpatrick, Yniguez, and Glynn Turman (who plays a therapist in one scene) deliver strong work. And we haven’t even mentioned the secret weapon of Together Brothers, R&B superstar Barry White, who composed the picture’s lively score and a handful of songs—including the thumping groove “Somebody’s Gonna Off the Man.” With his imaginative arrangements and lush strings, White kicks some Together Brothers scenes into full-on blaxploitation funkiness, even though the picture is, generally speaking, bereft of blaxploitation clichés. So, while it’s difficult to recommend Together Brothers too heartily given its flaws and its ugly portrayal of homosexuality, this is an interesting picture offering small rewards for adventurous viewers.

Together Brothers: FUNKY

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