Review: My Brother the Devil (15)

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And so we come to another portrait of life in the urban jungle that is 21st-century London.

But not just any other portrait. My Brother the Devil positively crackles with energy. And it has a twist. The focus is on an ex-pat Egyptian family in which elder brother Rashid (James Floyd) is a hero figure to junior sibling Mo (Fady Elsayed).

It is Mo who longs to emulate Rashid by becoming a player in the tit-for-tat world of drugs, guns, knives and escalating gang warfare that define their neighbourhood and in which Rashid is top dog.

It’s an old story but one that is well told. Rashid is smart. Maybe he knows he is doomed. Mo idolises him but cannot see further than the glamour of easy money, prestige and status.

Written and directed by Sally El Hosaini My Brother the Devil has the nerve to offer a counterpoint to hero worship when Mo begins to suspect that Rashid is gay – as evidenced by his growing friendship with enlightened photographer Sayyid (Saïd Taghmaoui, from La Haine and The Kite Runner).

Mo’s response is to tag his brother as a terrorist and radical. Better that than the shame of being associated with a homosexual on the mean streets of the capital.

Realistic performances and scarily authentic dialogue put this on a par above most urban flicks. The partnership of Floyd and newcomer Elsayed is powerful and affecting, the gangland milieu into which Mo is sucked (as Rashid is attempting to get out) is frightening and there appears to be only one solution: violent death.

The patois of the streets has never been more unsettling.