Presenting the crime thriller in a different light, The Mason Brothers has moments of genuine intensity and dramatic flair
The Mason Brothers, a slow-burn crime thriller involving three brothers and a bank heist gone terribly wrong, features countless scenes that audiences have seen before—and yet, because of writer/director Keith Sutliff’s emphasis on character and dialogue, the film manages to shake its influences and stand out more than one might expect.
After their little brother (Michael Whelan) is shot dead during the robbery, the two other Mason brothers (Sutliff and Brandon Pearson) and their partner (Matthew Webb) attempt to figure out who double-crossed them and track down their brother’s killer. With innumerable nods to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs (including a non-linear narrative, a torture sequence that takes place mostly off-camera, and a “Mexican standoff” during the climax), The Mason Brothers is worth checking out by crime-thriller fans who appreciate character studies rather than full-blown action sequences.
While the film requires some patience—many scenes are repetitive and the script is not always dynamic or unexpected—its strengths far outweigh its stumbles.
Arguably the largest weakness of The Mason Brothers is the characters themselves; in order for audiences to care about their dilemma and their fate, the characters need to have qualities that are appealing, interesting, or unique in some way. In Sutliff’s script, the characters don’t seem all that different. From a tough-talking bounty hunter (Tim Park) to the brothers themselves, they are constantly asking the same questions over and over again throughout the film’s running time—who killed Orion? who shot at us? why didn’t we get the money? what are we going to do? The “gangsters” dress the same, look the same, and talk the same—and the dialogue contains little of the humor or menace of dialogue from those movies that The Mason Brothers brazenly wears on its sleeve.
However, Sutliff’s film has many highlights—and these are strong enough to make for an enjoyable and entertaining viewing experience.
The relationships among the multiple characters grow and develop through each flashback, leading audiences to stick with the film until the end to see if the culprits are ever discovered and to find out who lives and who dies; the cinematography, by Errol Webber, Jr., captures the melancholic grime of the criminal world, with its shadowy interrogation rooms, brutal shoot-outs, and shady double-crosses; and Federico Vaona’s score, especially in the final scenes, throbs with an intensity perfect for the mood.
Though I wanted to like The Mason Brothers more than I did, I would absolutely continue to check out Sutliff’s work to see what he and his production crew have in store next.
Perhaps if the screenplay had dropped some of its more overt influences and focused more on distinctive characterization and plot points, The Mason Brothers could have evolved into a more meaningful and powerful film. Still, Keith Sutliff’s bank-heist thriller, which is currently available on VOD, demands attention. Stylish and polished at times, the film shows tremendous promise from a very talented team of artists.