In 1987 Ringo Lam’s Hong Kong gangster masterpiece City on Fire which inspired many similar films, most notably 1992’s Reservoir Dogs the film that made Quentin Tarantino’s career. Now in 2017 we have Keith Sutliff’s The Mason Brothers which owes the same inspirational debt to Tarantino that he does to Lamb.
The plot is deceptively simple. The Mason brothers Ren (Keith Sutliff), Orion, (Michael Ryan Whelan) and Jesse (Brandon Sean Pearson) and partner Gage (Matthew Webb) plan a daring bank robbery. However on the way out of the bank they encounter a rival gang and in the ensuing gunfight Orion is fatally injured. Retreating back to their hideout Ren contacts Jerry (Tim Park) and has him grab a couple of the members of the other gang, determined to find out who set them up at all costs. But the longer they take trying to torture information out of them the greater the risk of the police finding them becomes. And the deeper in a maze of greed and double crosses they find themselves.
The film is told in a non linear manner, mixing what is happening with frequent flashbacks of events leading up to the heist and see what was planned, how it turned out and how the aftermath plays out. This style doesn’t always work, it’s easy to become confusing or accidentally give something away, but here it’s done right, giving us information when we need to know it and keeps us anticipating the next development. The revelations may not always be particularly surprising but they keep the film moving along and interesting.
Most of the credit has to go to Sutliff who not only wrote, produced, directed and starred but also had several other behind the scenes roles. He really threw himself into getting this made and that dedication shines through. It’s more impressive when you realize this is his first feature after doing several shorts and having a handful of credits as an actor. He does need t learn to trim his script and work on pacing a little, because at just under two hours the film does run a little long. It never gets boring but it does drag a bit in spots. This is an auspicious debut for him.
The Mason Brothers will be premiering at the Egyptian theater in Hollywood on April 11 followed by a limited, multi-theater theatrical release beginning April 14 from KS Pictures. Digital, VOD and DVD releases will follow though the dates haven’t been announced yet.