Saturday, November 9, 2013

Brotherhood of Death (1976)

A schlocky blaxploitation film that arrived in the waning days of the genre, Brotherhood of Death has a suitably sensationalistic premise. After a quartet of black guys living in the South experience trouble with racist whites, the black friends run away to military service in Vietnam. Upon the quartet’s return to the states, racial tensions escalate into a small war between oppressed black citizenry and the Ku Klux Klan. To balance the scales, the heroes employ their military training. Bloodshed ensues. Had Brotherhood of Death been executed with any noticeable measure of skill and/or taste, this lurid plot could have resulted in a memorable revenge fantasy. Alas, choppy storytelling and inept performances by unknown actors—combined with a general sleaziness characterized by a ridiculously long topless scene and an unnecessarily gory climax—define Brotherhood of Death as forgettable grindhouse junk. When the story begins, African-American pals including Ned (Le Tari) and Roy (Raymond Moffat) enjoy shapeless lives filled with drinking and tomfoolery. Never mind that the film gets off to a weird start by depicting its heroes in a clich├ęd “shiftless” fashion, or that the mere threat of a fight with a white man sends them scurrying to Southeast Asia. These are heroes? The Vietnam scenes in Brotherhood of Death are absurd, utilizing stock footage and decidedly non-Asian locations, to say nothing of inaccurate hairstyles and uniforms. Then, once the story returns stateside, the rape of a black woman kicks the heroes into action—sort of. Since the protagonists first seek satisfaction through proper channels (filing charges, pushing for voter registration), Brotherhood of Death forgets that it’s an action movie for a good 30 minutes. And then comes the grisly ending, wherein the heroes magically have not only their uniforms and government-issued weapons, but also a full arsenal of Viet Cong-influenced booby traps (including a bag of venomous snakes!) with which to annihilate their enemies. Excepting perhaps a few tense moments during which it’s satisfying to watch Klansmen get their comeuppance, Brotherhood of Death offers little more than boredom and, thanks to its many logical lapses, consternation.

Brotherhood of Death: LAME

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