DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
FOUR BROTHERS (director: John Singleton; screenwriters: David Elliot/Paul Lovett; cinematographer: Peter Menzies Jr; editors: Bruce Cannon/Billy Fox; music: David Arnold/Ed Shearmur; cast: Mark Wahlberg (Bobby Mercer), Tyrese Gibson (Angel Mercer), André Benjamin (Jeremiah Mercer), Garrett Hedlund (Jack Mercer), Terrence Howard (Lieutenant Green), Josh Charles (Detective Fowler), Sofia Vergara (Sofi), Fionnula Flanagan (Evelyn Mercer), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Victor Sweet), Taraji P. Henson (Camille Mercer), Tony Nappo (Charlie), Barry Shabaka Henley (Councilman Douglas), Jernard Burks (Evan), Kenneth Welsh (Mr. Bradford); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Lorenzo di Bonaventura; Paramount Pictures; 2005)

 
"An unsatisfying attempt to bring the B Western motif to the contemporary urban setting."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An energetic in-your-face exploitation revenge thriller by John Singleton ("Boyz N the Hood") that begins deteriorating after the exciting moody opening scenes and falls flat on its kisser by the third act. It's written by David Elliot and Paul Lovett to get the most bloody thrills it possibly can out of a tragedy, never mind that everything about it is ridiculous. The writers create a make believe world that is based on a seedy Detroit that looks like a place in hell where everyone either plays hockey or is corrupt, including the police, but for one single saintly maternal gray-haired white lady who gets murdered and her execution gangland style becomes the film's subject. The film is more interested in being macho, looking ghetto-like cool, showing off how many ways it can shoot a gunfight with machine-guns blazing in the post-Thanksgiving holiday period, trying to dazzle us with a high-speed car chase on a slick snowy road, turning up the volume on some tinny Motown sounds, and not giving a damn about telling a realistic story to make its point that senseless violence is fun to watch when presented in such a grandiose and professional way. There are numerous unbelievable scenarios that include extended gunfights in public areas with no police in sight, gunplay during a basketball game that is ignored after the gunmen leave and the basketball game continues as if nothing happened, a cop gets into a fight and then gets killed outside a bar/pool hall and no one notices and, the most outrageous, a street shootout with a high body count is explained away as a matter of self-defense seconds after the police arrive with no further investigation called for. It was hard to take anything about it as serious. It's what it is, a preposterous urban family/crime drama that aims to hit its targeted young male audience right on the level where it thinks they are most impressionable. It's also an unsatisfying attempt to bring the B Western motif to the contemporary urban setting (it borrows the revenge theme from Henry Hathaway's 1965 western, "The Sons of Katie Elder," mixing a traditional John Wayne Western with an updated streetwise blaxploitation movie).

The feisty Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan) is a kindly figure in a violent ghetto community, who is murdered in a convenience-store stickup by two black gangbangers. She was a foster parent to four sons of different races (two of them white and two black) and they meet now in their childhood home as twentysomethings to grieve for their saintly mother and get revenge on those who killed her--not trusting the crooked police force. Mark Wahlberg is Bobby Mercer, the unofficial leader of the foursome, who has just been released from jail and comes with a deserved rep as a hothead and a troublemaker. He’s joined by former marine Angel (Tyrese Gibson), an intensely quiet tough-guy  ladies’ man, who takes time out from grieving to hook up again with neighborhood slut Sofi (Sofia Vergara). Youngest brother Jack (Garrett Hedlund) is an aspiring punk rocker and is heavily tattooed; he's also the coolest looking of all the dudes. The fourth brother, Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin), is a troublemaker who's settled down with a wife and kids and is looking to start a business with a loan from the local property improvement projects. All the youths were considered hopeless troublemakers that no one else would adopt but Evelyn took them in and gave them the best chance they had of succeeding.

The city's one likable cop, Lieutenant Green (Terrence Howard), is in charge of the murder investigation, but soon learns his partner Detective Fowler (Josh Charles) is crooked and led the nice old lady into the hands of local kingpin Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor) when she met with Fowler and made a fuss over the way her son was cheated out of a real-estate business deal by Sweet. The three brothers also uncover that bro Jeremiah got mixed up with Sweet and received $400,000 in an insurance policy his mom left, which he failed to notify his other brothers of. With the cops getting nowhere in their investigation, the brothers reunite after clearing up any doubts of where they stand and take the law into their own hands. They track down the hired killers of their mom and give them urban justice (executed on the spot), and fight their way through Sweet's hired goons with plenty of blood-and-gore until the climactic scene on an ice-covered lake where Sweet (who has a thing for brutality and humiliating people) finds out he's no longer the boss man of the streets. The convoluted plot gets lost in all the action sequences, which seems to be the only reason for the movie in the first place--a movie that has little value for human life and doesn't even give one damn about something like real justice in its sweeping condemnation of a city and its silly attempt to lionize the brothers as really caring sons who would do anything for dear "old" mom.

REVIEWED ON 8/13/2005        GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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