Monday, September 19, 2022

#2,818. The Brotherhood (1968) - Brotherhood Triple Feature


Released four years before The Godfather, director Martin Ritt’s The Brotherhood is a mafia / crime film in which a mob boss’s loyalties and sense of honor force him to choose between his current associates and the tradition he holds so dear.

As the film opens, Frank Ginetta (Kirk Douglas) is hiding out in Sicily. When he hears that an American has arrived by plane, Frank assumes it’s an assassin sent to kill him. To his delight, it’s actually his kid brother Vincent (Alex Cord), paying a surprise visit. Frank is thrilled to see his brother, but Frank’s wife Ida (Irene Papas) worries that Vincent may have another reason for turning up out of the blue.

It’s at this point The Brotherhood flashes back a few years, to when Frank was one of the top men in New York’s crime syndicate. Vincent, fresh out of the military, marries Emma (Susan Strasberg), daughter of Frank’s longtime friend Dominick Bertolo (Luther Adler). Though he has a bright future ahead of him, Vincent tells Frank that he would like nothing more than to join him in the family “business”.

But times have changed since their father was a Mafia Don. Organized crime now operates like a corporation, with Frank, Dominick, and fellow bosses Egan (Murray Hamilton), Levin (Alan Hewitt), and Rotherman (Val Avery) functioning as a committee that oversees all aspects of the criminal underworld. Despite this new way of doing things, Frank maintains a close friendship with his father’s old associates, and continues to mourn his father, who was shot to death years earlier.

Frank finds himself in hot water when he refuses to go along with a new venture supported by the rest of the committee; even Vincent is convinced his brother is making a mistake. It’s around this same time that Frank learns the identity of the traitor responsible for his father’s murder, setting in motion a chain of events that will force the embattled mob boss into hiding in Sicily.

Kirk Douglas delivers a bravura performance as Frank, a modern crime boss who every now and again still resorts to the “old” way of doing things. At the start of the New York flashback, two of Frank’s men drag a guy to an abandoned lot and shoot him dead. They then put a dead canary in their victim's mouth, telling the world he was a snitch. The supporting cast is solid as well, especially Cord as Frank’s argumentative brother. But The Brotherhood is Douglas’s film from start to finish, and he definitely delivers, giving us in Frank a complex character who realizes times have changed, yet is reluctant to let go of a past that means so much to him.

Along with Douglas’ performance, The Brotherhood makes great use of its locations, both in Sicily and New York, and Ritt’s solid direction keeps this dialogue-heavy tale moving along at a brisk pace. Ritt and screenwriter Lewis John Carlino also keep the bloodshed to a minimum, though the moments that do feature violence are effective (especially shocking is the scene in which Frank finally avenges his father’s death).

Those expecting another Godfather will likely be disappointed. This movie has neither the scope nor the grandeur of Coppola’s 1972 masterpiece. But if you’re a fan of organized crime flicks, The Brotherhood should be the next movie you watch.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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