Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for violence, profanity and ethnic slurs
Running time: 111 minutes
Distributor: Liquid Soul Media / Freestyle Releasing
Twins Jackie (Keke Palmer) and Sergio Taylor (Eric D. Hill, Jr.) already had it tough enough growing up in the ghetto before the untimely demise of their dad a few years ago. But then their mother (Macy Gray) stopped functioning and started hitting the bottle.
That’s when their big brother, June (Cory Hardrict), became the family breadwinner, and it’s been a struggle for him to keep a roof over their heads ever since. So, he started dealing drugs hoping that his becoming an outlaw would at least enable his siblings to keep their noses clean and continue pursuing their dreams. After all, Sergio is one of the top high school basketball players in the nation, while Jackie is an aspiring singer in need of a big break.
By comparison, the living is easy for kids like Chris Collins (Quincy Brown) from “The Hilltop,” the upscale enclave located just across the proverbial tracks. He’s a classmate of Jackie’s at Overbrook High, where students from his ‘hood don’t mix with those from “The Bottom,” especially in the wake of the gang warfare that recently claimed the life of one of his cousins.
Chris has a crush on Jackie, and she likes him, too. Under normal circumstances theirs would be a match made in heaven, since his father is a famous record producer capable of launching a promising talent’s musical career.
However, complications arise reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet when the competing clans suggest that the pair separate. Will the star-crossed lovers follow their hearts or capitulate to the pressure from friends and relatives?
Written and directed by Jamal Hill (Autumn), “Brotherly Love” is a gritty, inner-city saga of Shakespearean proportions shot on location in West Philadelphia. Provided you have a strong stomach for Ebonics laced with lots of cursing and the N-word, you’ll likely find this super-realistic adventure quite compelling.
As far as performances are concerned, Keke Palmer is terrific in the lead role as Jackie. She also belts out a couple of tunes on the soundtrack, including a mesmerizing, closing credits rendition of the Harold Melvin R&B classic, “Wake Up Everybody.” And the rest of the cast, especially Cory Hardrict, Romeo Miller, Macy Gray, Eric D. Hill, Jr., Quincy Brown and Faizon Love, does a great job creating the requisite edgy atmosphere that imbues the production with a very authentic feel for the duration.
Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art though Romeo? I be hanging with my homeys, mama!