"My Brother the Devil": Wanting to Be Like Big Brother

First-time directors often work in existing genres for their feature debuts, and up to a certain point, Sally El Hosaini's My Brother the Devil hits all the beats of the "conflicted gangster doesn't want his younger sibling to follow him into the crime business" formula. This is not a bad thing, particularly because the accents in the London borough of Hackney can seem porridge-thick to American ears, so familiarity with the oft-told story comes in handy when the dialogue isn't clear. (It's reminiscent of Attack the Block, a movie set in a similar milieu and which is best watched with the subtitles on.) Comprehension is thankfully not a problem with the main characters, members of an Arab family: older brother Rashid (James Floyd), the conflicted gangster who wants out of the life of crime, and his younger brother Mo (Fady Elsayed), who very much wants in. El Hosaini's film does offers some new spins on the formula: A certain character survives a personal revelation that would have condemned him to a final-reel death had the movie been made a few decades ago, and the question of which of the brothers is the devil is left unanswered. As the genre evolves, My Brother the Devil should help to set a new template.

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