Iron Brothers follows the titular brothers, Abel (Tate Smith) and Henry Iron (Porter Smith), fur trappers whose living is taking a hard downturn. The price of furs is dropping, and this frustrates the two brothers. After getting an utterly unfair deal from Randall (Luke Kalmar), a frequent buyer, a fight breaks out, and Randall is killed. Abel and Henry then go on the lam and have to survive the harsh wilderness. If the environment does not overwhelm them, then the eclectic people they meet or the Native Americans out to scalp them might take down the brothers.
Aspects of filmmaking, such as editing or lighting, are kind of immutable; either done competently or not. Of course, there is some variance there, as what you might consider a poorly lit scene, I won’t see the same way. However, we can all agree that a scene which is underlit and too dark, so the action is hard to see, is a flaw.
What is harder to put a finger on is the intangible quality of excitement. Characters that the audience can invest in and a story with something to say certainly go a long way towards keeping the audience engaged. But even if a movie has such elements, it might not connect with a viewer for any number of reasons.
“…Abel and Henry go on the lam and have to survive the harsh wilderness.”
This is how it was during the 90-minutes Iron Brothers lasts. Positives first though, as there are many things to commend the movie on. The cinematography, by Josh Smith, is breathtaking. The vistas of the snow-blown, mountainous terrain Abel and Henry traverse as it swallows them whole make the viewer wish to see these locations in real life. It adds a sense of danger that is sorely lacking in the script and directing departments. Henry departs to sell to Randall, and the high angled crane shoot is flying backward as the rider and horse gallop through the endless prairie. It is gorgeous.
Then there are the costumes, which appear worn and lived in, and are (reasonably) period accurate. Jenelle Smith works wonders with the budget at her disposal, and the film is all the better for it. Porter Smith and Sean Williamson provide the music, and it is equally as impressive as the costumes. Henry nearly drowns, so Abel is nursing him back to health when the Native Americans catch up to the brothers. The music cue is intense and allows for dread to settle in before giving way to a more lively score that amplifies the battle.
Co-writers Josh and Tate Smith are competent as directors, but that is the problem. All that good and impressive talent previously talked about is in service of a project that requires style. A baseline of know-how is on display, as in there are no continuity errors or the like to speak of. However, the pair fails to enliven any single moment with a sense of forwarding momentum. This lack of energy leads Iron Brothers to commit the worst sin any movie possibly can – it is dreadfully dull.
“…as the rider and horse gallop through the endless prairie. It is gorgeous.”
Straight from the first scene, a shot of the forest with a voice over about what it takes to survive, I was bored. The narration sounded as invested in this as someone describing their blinds. Who bloody well cares about blinds? Exactly. Things happen, but none of it is interesting.
Perhaps this is because the characters are one-note and very dour. As writers, the Smiths aren’t nearly as confident as they are directors. The story takes a while to get anywhere, and even by the end, I am still not certain why the Native Americans tracked the brothers as they did. Henry is hot-headed, Abel is thoughtful but seems to hold everyone at a distance. That is all we know about them.
Iron Brothers has a lot to recommend from its cinematography and editing to its score and lovely costumes. However, it never grabs the viewer and remains boring from scene one to the end.
Iron Brothers (2018) Directed by Josh Smith, Tate Smith. Written by Josh Smith, Tate Smith. Starring Tate Smith, Porter Smith, Talon Teton, Luke Kalmar, Richard Dean, Trevor Beasley.
4 Gummi Bears (out of 10)