The older of the two brothers, and the one with more devilish tendencies (though that knife cuts both ways), is Rashid (James Floyd), a well-liked drug dealer and all-around hoodlum who hides his activities from his Egyptian-immigrant parents, who keep hounded him to get a job. His little brother, Mo (Fady Elsayed), still in school and a good student to boot, idolizes him the way little brothers do, but Rashid struggles to keep him from following in his footsteps. He redoubles these efforts after a harrowing clash with a rival gang leaves one of Rashid's friends dead and Rashid badly shaken up. His new attitude is sober and serious. "Death is real, bruv," he tells Mo. "It ain't a f*****' game."
Rashid wants to get away from this lifestyle now -- easier said than done. With no legitimate work experience, it is hard to find a job. With no source of income, it is hard to get out of this violent, dream-crushing neighborhood. With no friends other than the lowlifes he's been associating with -- criminals, albeit generally amiable ones -- it is hard to break free from old habits. He has a girlfriend, Vanessa (Elarica Gallacher), whose head is on more or less straight, but she seems to be little more than a booty call for him.
Meanwhile, Rashid's former associates have sworn revenge on their rivals, and Mo is eager to fill his brother's shoes. He's resentful of Rashid's change in attitude, and has his own coming-of-age issues to deal with (including the pursuit of a girlfriend of his own). To say more would be to spoil the film's surprises, some of which are downright Shakespearean in their cold calculatedness, but the basic issue is this: How many different ways can a person bring dishonor to his people -- and what do you expect when the standards are set so high? Rashid and Mo both come to be guilty of several transgressions that range in seriousness from lying to much worse things. Do two wrongs make a right? Is one thing worse than another? How does it all balance out?
The central performances by Floyd and Elsayed are authentic and heartfelt. Both young men convey the characters' conflicted emotions with the kind of passion that should ring true for anyone who's experienced sibling rivalry (which should be anyone who's had a sibling). If the story fizzles out before it's done, leading to a somewhat anticlimactic finale and unclear choices, it's forgivable considering the thought-provoking and exceedingly well-crafted character drama that has proceeded it. Sally El Hosaini is a filmmaker with something to say.