Review: Brotherhood

Jason Isaacs in Brotherhood

In the US: Sunday, 10 pm ET/PT, Showtime

In the UK: Not acquired yet

Jason Isaacs likes to do hard. His first big UK role was in Civvies, Lynda La Plante’s everyday story of former paratroopers trying to get jobs that don’t involve breaking and entering. He’s over in the US now in Brotherhood, a Showtime drama about two brothers, one on the right side of the law, the other on the wrong side.

Guess which side Jason’s on.

At first glance, Brotherhood isn’t particularly inspiring. Isaacs is a serious crim who’s been missing for seven years. Australian actor Jason Clarke plays his brother, who’s now a respectable politician. Brotherhood ostensibly looks at how you can have a family member you want to love but who will ruin everything you’ve done if you allow them to get close to you.

But there is a slight twist to this. Clarke isn’t actually very respectable. His vote is buyable, he’s in league with all sorts of bad elements, including corrupt unions (oh what a surprise. A US drama series where a union is corrupt). He only wants Isaacs out of his life so that people don’t realise he’s actually about as criminal as they come, too. The show’s most interesting moments deal with the corruption of the political process.

Isaacs’ character isn’t as evil as everyone thinks though. Although a ‘three-in-one’ hit man (judge, jury and executioner), not adverse to extreme amounts of brutality and mutilation, he’s all doing it with the best intents: he takes action against a man who threatens to rape a woman by cutting of the man’s ear and sending it to her as a gift along with some new earrings (it’s supposed to reassure her); instead of killing people, he pays them to disappear so he won’t have to.

And the ‘brotherhood’ of the title doesn’t just mean the two Jasons’ brotherhood; it also means the brotherhood between criminals in the same gang.

At the moment though, Brotherhood is pretty unappetising. There’s none of the great writing of The Sopranos. There’s no character – major or minor – who isn’t criminal or unpleasant in one way or another, right down to Clarke’s nine-year-old daughter.

It’s heavy going and not especially enjoyable. The strength of Isaacs’ and Clarke’s performances make it an interesting character piece, but there’s going to need to be more plot and development to make it more than just a tale of two brothers – something we’ve seen many times before.