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The thing that has always made a good heist movie work so well is usually how something during the heist goes terribly wrong, leading the characters to face challenges they haven’t planned for. From Reservoir Dogs to Ocean’s 11, the best parts are always those that see the characters in a mess and try to solve their way through it. So it is with The Mason Brothers, a stripped down version of these big budget films that has plenty going for it, even with a few curious missteps.
It begins with a job gone bad as two crews, seemingly by coincidence, hit a bank at the same time, one coming in while one is going out. The collision leaves one four-man team with one member dead, the brother of two others who now suspect the fourth might not be so trusted. Escaping and hiding in a warehouse, they hole up and try to figure out what happened and if there is a connection and if so, who’s behind it. This leads to some conflicts as they struggle to learn what happened and how to get vengeance.
Written, directed and starring Keith Sutliff, The Mason Brothers is a talky film, purposefully so, often looking like a filmed stage play with the dialogue the best part of the movie. These are not well-defined characters but that’s hardly the point, the depth coming more from the immediacy of the action rather than the larger backstory. The film relies on a number of flashbacks, unraveling the seedy tale in a nonlinear fashion with the bank heist itself never seen actually seen. It’s shot mostly on one or two sets and all of that in the dark with very specific lighting that shines down like stage spots. It is designed to echo Quentin Tarantino‘s Reservoir Dogs in premise of course, but is far from a duplicate. It doesn’t have the bite or violence of that movie, a choice that strips away much of the menace the genre promises, but for what Sutliff is after, it works.
Sutliff is mostly silent in his role as Ren, the leader of the brother’s gang with Brandon Sean Pearson playing Jesse, the excitable one who is suspicious of everything and running his mouth whenever he can. He is deadly loyal to Ren and is the film’s most energetic performer with Matthew Webb playing Gage, the only member of the team that’s not related, almost an equal. He and Jesse clash often. The script is the strongest part of Sutliff’s work, though there are some odd choices that don’t always hit the mark, such as character-conversations and card games that don’t seem to add much to the plot, padding the near two-hour runtime unnecessarily.
The Mason Brothers is an interesting experiment and certainly won’t be for fans of high action thrillers, but for those that like dialogue-driven character films there’s a lot here that appeals. Sutliff has good ideas and shows great promise with his stylish direction. A solid and entertaining thriller.
Movie description: The Mason Brothers is a 2017 crime drama about a group of outlaws who attempt to reveal their brothers killer from a neighboring gang after being set up during a bank heist.
Director(s): Keith Sutliff
Actor(s): Nazo Bravo, Carlotta Montanari, Erica Souza
Genre: Crime, Thriller