By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Sep 23, 2005 at 5:17 AM

{image1}Sometimes even a well-worn plot idea can be boosted to create a fine film on the strength of the performances alone. That's certainly the case in the new Danish film, "Brothers," directed by Susanne Bier.

Michael (Ulrich Thomsen) is the good brother; the one with the good job (jeez, he's a soldier, even), a beautiful wife, three lovely young daughters, two loving parents and a wonderful home (even if the kitchen needs some work).

As the film opens, Michael is picking up his brother Jannik (Nikolaj Kass) from -- you guessed it -- prison, where he was serving a term for the violent robbery of a bank, that left one female victim shattered.

We've seen the good brother/bad brother story before and of course a good vs. evil conflict figures in nearly every film. So, don't be surprised when "Brothers" fails to avoid the trap of predictability.

But you may be surprised by the fact that you don't much care. That's how good the performances are by Thomsen, Lie Kass and by American actress Connie Nielsen, who plays Michael's wife Sarah.

That Nielsen is so powerful is bolstered by the fact that she needed Danish lessons to be able to appear in the film at all.

When he's released from jail, Jannik is hardly welcomed back. His nieces and sister-in-law are skeptical of him and his father could hardly be less enthused to have him around, especially when he's compared to his angelic brother Michael, who is soon deployed to Afghanistan to help find a missing soldier.

While Michael is away, Jannik becomes a part of the family -- despite lingering skepticism about his character -- finishing up the work on the kitchen and playing with the kids. He also grows close to Sarah during a major crisis.

But, as you'd expect, as the film unfolds it becomes harder and harder to pigeonhole the brothers as "good" and "bad," because, after all, they're human and we all make mistakes.

Kass never overplays the troubled brother and caresses the difficult transformation into a good guy. Thomsen is similarly adept at navigating the moral issues faced by Michael at home and in Afghanistan.

Try to avoid guessing the plot turns, because you'll be disappointed to find you can predict them pretty well and focus instead on the intense performances and fine photography and "Brothers" will not disappoint.

"Brothers" opens Friday, Sept. 23 at The Times Cinema.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.