My Brother’s War

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(From a 2006 DVD review.)

Why anyone considers the name Roger Corman to be a selling point is beyond me, but here it is, plastered at the top of “My Brother’s War,” a 1997 film directed by actor James Brolin that stumbled around for a while, disappeared, and has now been released on DVD under Buena Vista’s new “Roger Corman Early Films” banner.

Corman produced it, and it’s an “early film” because while it comes very late in Brolin’s career, it was his first (and thus “earliest”) directorial effort. Corman is often credited with helping new talent get started in Hollywood, but I don’t think that really applies to producing the first movie directed by a man who had already acted in 70-plus others. None of the actors here have gone on to greatness, either.

Anyway, “My Brother’s War” is a turgid, self-serious drama about two Irish brothers who work with varying levels of fervor and murderousness for the Irish Republican Army. Gerry Fallon (Patrick Foy) is older and more politically motivated; he’s the one who doesn’t want to assassinate people if their children are present. Liam (Salvator Xuereb), younger and more erratic, massacres a dozen people, including some fellow IRA operatives, and lets Gerry take the rap for it.

Five years later, with Gerry languishing in prison, Liam is urging more violence even as the IRA leaders are calling for a slowdown. He’s become a force to be reckoned with, a dangerous character to have running around. And so for some reason, Scotland Yard calls ex-CIA agent John Hall (James Brolin) to find Liam. Why bring in an American? And a retired one at that? Good question. Ask Brolin if you meet him. While you’re at it, ask him why he cast an actress 25 years younger than himself to play his SISTER, who gets killed in an IRA attack early in the film.

So John Hall meets with Gerry in the hoosegow and Gerry agrees to help Hall and the government find his wayward, lunatic brother. Hall is of Irish descent, but he has no sympathy for the IRA crazies. “Don’t even get being Irish confused with being a damn sociopathic killer,” he says with teeth gritted and voice growly.

The performances all around are flat and flavorless, and the screenplay (by regular Corman employee Alex Simon) makes people say dumb things like this, spoken by a woman who has cornered Liam and has a gun trained on him: “You are one sick individual. And I am here to put you down.” After she says it, she lets him get close enough to her to stab her seven times. Nice going, lassie. You earn the prize for Dumbest Person in a film where there’s a lot of competition.

D (; R, violence and profanity.)

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