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The Boston Globe

Movies

MOVIE REVIEW

Melodrama about Muslim brothers resonates

A young man, Mohammed (Fady Elsayed), idolizes his older brother, Rashid (James Floyd), a macho boxer, and the two are drawn into a world of violence when the latter is radicalized by Islam. The parallels between Sally El Hosaini’s gang-banging melodrama set in London’s tough East End and some aspects of the recent tragic events in Boston seem eerily resonant, especially since they invert the usual expectations about Muslims and terrorism. The Islam that turns Rashid’s world around preaches love, not jihad, and his newfound faith is seen as the solution, not the cause, of the hatred and bloodshed that threatens to consume them.

Had El Hosaini stuck to the simplicity of this theme and not complicated matters with button-pushing subplots, and had she not inflated her elegant, minimal style with awkward flourishes, her film might have burned with the focused intensity of a latter-day “Mean Streets.” Though, to its credit, it inverts stereotypes and at times finds fresh meaning in tired clichés, it falls short on the originality and inspiration needed to make these insights stick.

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