Coming to theatres, On Demand and digital from writer/director Henry-Alex Rubin, co-writer Sean Mullin and Lionsgate is the story of brothers and brotherhood with SEMPER FI.
Callahan (Jai Courtney) is a police officer in a small town but also a reservist in the Marine Corps along with his friends and brother Oyster (Nat Wolff). Hanging out with Jaeger (Finn Wittrock), Milk (Beau Knapp), Snowball (Arturo Castro), they enjoy their time together just have a bit of fun.
Cal has been keeping an eye on his younger brother Oyster since their mother died and it is a job big brother takes seriously. Helping him stay out of trouble has also brought tension to the brothers that occasionally come to the surface. As the gang goes out for a night of drinks, they all know that going to Iraq is very close. Cal warns Oyster to stay out of trouble but gets a snarky reply.
Later in the evening, Cal gets a telephone call that his brother is wanted for beating up a man at the bar. Having no choice, he goes to look for his brother wanting to be the one to arrest him before anything else happens. It doesn’t go well and Oyster is sent to prison while Cal is sent to Iraq. The brother each fight to stay alive but in different ways. Cal is faced with his own decisions in war when his platoon is attacked. Oyster is fighting corruption from those that should be protecting him.
Returning home Cal visits his brother in jail and is met with disdain and hostility but it is clear that something bad is happening to Oyster. Cal reaches out to anyone that he things can help but all he is told is that there is a possibility the younger brother can be transferred. He tries to discover why Oyster is out of legal options only to find out there is something nefarious happening.
That’s when he decides the only recourse is to be a law man who is about to break that law and with help!
Courtney as Callahan is a complex character being that he is a big brother put in a position of responsibility at a young age to be a father figure. As he gets older, he sees the path Oyster is on and will do anything to help him avoid the painful effects of bad decisions. Courtney has made a career portraying a stern faced and by the book leader roles and it’s because he makes it work beautifully. This is an intense role because of the truths behind it with war and a sense of brotherhood that has brotherhood attached to it as well.
Wolff as Oyster clearly has issues that he has not dealt with and a history that is filled with pain and fear. Instead of the brothers dealing with that history, Wolff holds anger towards his brother that is taken to the stratosphere when Cal is the one who arrests him. Wrapped up in himself, he can’t see past that anger and blames everyone else for his own bad choices. Wolff is that little brother many of us can relate to and that brings the viewer deeper into the relationships with Cal.
Knapp, Castro and Wittrock are Cal and Oyster’s military brothers who see what is happening between them and tries to keep the peace. When they all go to Iraq without Oyster, these men follow their leader Cal because that’s what brothers do, watch out for each other and trust that their leader will get them home. Once home, they all understand the pain Cal is going through when he sees Oyster in prison and will follow both brothers into another kind of battle.
Other cast include Leighton Meester as Clara, Rachel Hendrix as Rachel, Wayne Pere as Tom Nichols, Ashton Leigh as Val, Sylvia Crim as Carrie, Rob Mello as Tony, Lance Nichols as Balfour, Jared Bankens as DJ Dwyer, Mehdi Merali as Jalal and William Harris as Dr. Stall.
SEMPER FI is a story with many layers beginning with the brothers and ending with brotherhood. It shares within the story the struggles of those returning from war to try and find their way yet never forgetting who got them home in the first place. Another layer is that of a brotherhood that happens for soldiers in the military. In this instance it is a brotherhood that supports one another and even though it is an unusual situation, it is still not farfetched.
Films like SEMPER FI are important in that they address such serious issues that soldiers face when they return from war. In the case of Cal he is fighting what happened after the attack and how to deal with it once home. Trying to be strong for his brother and ‘brothers’ is difficult and the strain becomes too much at one point. When it comes to Oyster, it is his brothers who let him know that nothing is impossible together.
Sean Mullin is an award-winning screenwriter and film director but previous to that was a Captain in the New York Amy National Guard and a first responder after the September 11th attacks. He spent his time working as the Officer in Charge of the soldiers stationed at Ground Zero. His critically-acclaimed debut – AMIRA & SAM won at numerous film festivals and was distributed by Drafthouse Films. He is the co-writer and co-producer of SEMPER FI along with Academy Award Nominated director Henry-Alex Rubin. Also involved is Academy Award nominated producer of WHIPLASH David Lancaster.
In the end – honor your brother!