I knew there were reasons I didn't bother to join a college fraternity. One is that I struck me as enormously stupid and narrow to define myself or judge others based on two or three Greek letters. The characters of "Brotherhood" could've saved themselves a lot of pain and suffering had they realized that.

When the film opens, the pledges of Sigma Zeta Chi are taking part in a felonious initiation: robbing convenience stores. They don't know that it's all a prank; they're not really doing anything criminal. But then some wires get crossed — these tools aren't the sharpest, you know — and one pledge crosses the one line that wasn't intended.

One shootout later, the Sigma Zeta Chi brothers are likely wishing they'd stuck to a good-ol'-fashioned circle jerk and/or elephant walk, because they're in deep, deep doo-doo, and possibly headed for prison. Despite the common-sense pleadings of one pledge (Trevor Morgan, "Mean Creek"), the hotheaded frat leader (Jon Foster) barks orders to others in order to fabricate a cover-up and worm their way out before it's too late.

They can't catch a break, however. Director and co-writer Will Canon keeps ramping up the obstacles — a hostage situation here, a car crash there — all seemingly designed by cosmic fate to tarnish the "dignity" of the house.

"Brotherhood"'s dramatic tension is driven almost solely by dialogue; being about frats, expect a lot of that to include "fuck," "fucking" and variations thereof. The script makes none of the guys likable (not even Morgan's character, really), so watching it is all about waiting to see comeuppance delivered with the smack of a paddle.

Foster, in particular, excels at being a total ass — one of the most convincing performances you'll see all year. If you hadn't seen him in "Pandorum" or "The Door in the Floor" or the sitcom "Accidentally on Purpose," you might mistake him for the real deal. Nope, he’s just that good an actor.

This is an unconventional and unlikely thriller of surprising effectiveness, generated from a no-budget short film of nine years prior. Phase 4 Films had the good sense to include it on the disc for comparison's sake; it's not very good, which makes the full feature look that much better. —Rod Lott

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