Picks and Pans Review: Brotherhood

updated 07/10/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/10/2006 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Showtime (Sundays, 10 p.m. ET)

BY TOM GLIATTO

DRAMA

This rattling good series starts with the old, old story of two brothers who take opposite moral turns on the road of life, but the route is complicated with ramps, loops and underpasses. The bad brother, a thug named Michael Caffee (Jason Isaacs), comes home to Providence, R.I., after years in hiding and picks up where he left off. He assembles a crime syndicate in his working-class Irish neighborhood. Or is he a deluded Robin Hood? He provides free booze for senior citizens and, in a repulsive act of chivalry, severs the ear of a rival gangster who attacks a young woman. The good brother, Tommy Caffee (Jason Clarke), is a Kennedy type, a state representative trying to test just how many deals he can cut before he kisses his integrity bye-bye. Clarke, an Australian actor, is charismatic and convincing: He could be a pol letting his life serve as a reality show. Isaacs, a British actor known as Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, plays Michael with more star swagger. He's the killer, but Tommy's dealings with the House Speaker seem truly life or death.
[STARS 3]

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