For my next back to school review, I want to take a look at one of the best films that you’ve probably never heard of, the 1986 made-for-TV film Brotherhood Justice!
Brotherhood of Justice takes place at a California high school. It’s a school that is pretty much ruled by the football team and the divide between the children of the upper and the working class is often violently apparent. After several acts of violence, drug dealing, and vandalism, the school’s principal (Joe Spano) is left with a choice. He can either hire full-time security guards and turn his school into an armed camp or he can meet with the most popular seniors and ask them to do their part to maintain order at the school.
He goes with the latter option.
At first, quarterback Derek (Keanu Reeves) is excited about doing his part to make the school a better place. He and his friends quickly form the Brotherhood of Justice and make out a list of trouble makers. At first, Derek and his friends are just roughing up drug dealers and demanding that all students show some school pride. (In order to maintain their anonymity, they all wear masks to hide their faces. However, no effort is made to disguise anyone’s voice, which means that this film takes place in a world where no one can recognize the voice of Keanu Reeves.) However, things quickly escalate. One member of the Brotherhood — Les (Billy Zane) — is especially enthusiastic and he has a thing for knives.
Meanwhile, Derek is having issues with his girlfriend, Christie (Lori Loughlin). Christie, who is apparently incapable of recognizing her boyfriend’s voice whenever he’s wearing a mask, thinks that the Brotherhood is idiotic. Christie also has a new job as a waitress and one of her co-workers is Victor (Kiefer Sutherland). Victor obviously likes Christie and he also bravely stands up to the Brotherhood when they try to harass a student who is named Pasty. (I kid you not.)
When Derek grows disillusioned with the Brotherhood, they decide that the situation with Christie must be distracting him. So, they decide to blow up Victor’s car…
It’s all in the name of justice!
Obviously, one of the best things about Brotherhood of Justice is that it’s a chance to see Neo and Jack Bauer compete over Aunt Becky while Cal Hockley plays with a switch blade in the background. (Oddly enough, Derek’s younger brother is played by Danny Nucci, who later appeared with Zane in Titanic.) But there’s more to Brotherhood of Justice than just the curiosity value of the cast.
That plot hole about the voices aside, Brotherhood of Justice is actually a really good movie and one that everyone should watch. If anything, it’s even more relevant today than it probably was when it was originally made. It’s easy to be dismissive of the self-righteous and judgmental Brotherhood but actually, how different are they from the outrage brigade who show up everyday on twitter? When the Brotherhood demands that everyone follow the rules and love their school, how different are they from those assholes who, today, claim that anyone who disagrees with the president or questions the moral authority of the government is somehow guilty of treason? If the Brotherhood existed today, they would be cyberbullying and doxxing anyone who they felt had failed to say or think the right thing.
Let’s face it — we currently live in a fascist culture. In its own modest but important way, Brotherhood of Justice is one of those films that can tell us why.
And you can watch it below!