a critiQal film review Four Brothers (2005)

Plot: Bobby (Wahlberg), Angel (Gibson), Jack (Hedlund) and Jeremiah (Benjamin) were all adopted by the same woman in Detroit. When their mother is murdered, they reunite to search for her killer. But when they start knocking on doors, they discover that they are in for a lot more than they bargained for.

594 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 58s)
  • ...rises above it's bleak revenge pic status thanks to solid acting and directing.

Heather and I had heard a lot about Four Brothers – and most of it had been good.

Of course, everybody remembers Director John Singleton from Boyz n the Hood (1991). But since that amazing debut, he’s kind of faded into the background. Rather than being the big reason people go see his films, he’s let the films speak for themselves, and hasn’t tried to be a drawing power. That doesn’t always work, of course, and now most people would be hard pressed to name 3 of his films.

So, with all the good word floating around about Four Brothers, would this be the film to thrust John Singleton back into the spotlight, or has he already given us the best he has to offer?

The title of Four Brothers refers to a bunch of actors who most would never think of as working together: rappers turned actors Mark Wahlberg and André Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund (Troy (2004)), and ex-model Tyrese.

Mark Wahlberg turns in a decent performance as usual, this time reverting back to his street-tough attitude to get the job done – no real surprise there.

The other actors, especially Tyrese and Andre, do a surprisingly good job of stepping up to the plate for their roles in Four Brothers. Tyrese, in his quiet tough-guy persona, shows real promise as a leading actor, while André continues to improve his acting skills while sticking with almost the same persona he displayed in Be Cool (2005).

Garrett does a decent enough job in his role, but seems outclassed by the other 3, acting-wise.

Four Brothers takes place during a winter in Detroit, and that cold, gritty feeling is evident throughout the film. Singleton does a great job of using everything in a movie to tie into one theme, from the weather to the scenery to even the clothing and the look of his actors. Every little thing in the film contributes to produce an almost palpable cold and gritty feeling that will go a long way towards sending a bit of a chill to the viewer. While Singleton himself compares Four Brothers to a classic western style film in one of DVD Featurettes, it comes across as more of a bleak, independent film, almost post-apocalyptic in it’s bare bones approach.

With that bleak feel to Four Brothers coming on strong from the beginning, each punch, every bullet, each slap seems even more intense. At the same time, the obvious love and camaraderie these 4 brothers share shines through even more. Despite all the action sequences, the film manages to never lose sight of it’s main message: family is everything.

Combining a revenge pic with moments of great sentimentality can be a tough thing to do, but Singleton manages to do a pretty good job of pulling everything together – although the brothers’ flashes of their mom seem a bit out of place. We already know that’s why they are doing everything. Why do we have to keep getting reminded of it? Is Singleton afraid we’re going to forget it?

Four Brothers, while originally posing as a bleak revenge picture, is able to rise to so much more thanks to a combination of the directing, the plot and the surprising acting talents of some of it’s cast. Mark Wahlberg would have never been able to carry this film by himself, but with Tyrese and André stepping up to the plate, Four Brothers rolls along smoothly from start to finish.

Is this film Singleton’s best movie to date? No, Boyz n the Hood (1991) still easily holds that spot. But Four Brothers is still worth a look.

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