In 1987 Ringo Lam’s City on Fire was released. It inspired many similar films, most notably 1992’s Reservoir Dogs the film that made Quentin Tarantino’s career. 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, The Refuge), Orion, (Michael Ryan Whelan) and Jesse (Brandon Sean Pearson, The Maze) and partner Gage (Matthew Webb) plan a daring bank robbery. However, on the way out of the bank, they encounter a rival gang. 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 Mason Brothers is told in a non-linear manner. It mixes what is happening with frequent flashbacks of events leading up to the heist and sees 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 in The Mason Brothers 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. He’s done several shorts and has a handful of credits as an actor. He does need to learn to trim his script and work on pacing. 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.