Four Brothers Review
The Four Brothers of the title are the adopted sons of Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan), a saintly old woman who took in four young tearaways from Detroit's mean streets and tried to turn their lives around. She was only partially successful. Jeremiah (André Benjamin) is a businessman with a family and Jack (Garrett Hedlund) is an aspiring musician but Bobby (Mark Wahlberg) and Angel (Tyrese Gibson) are career criminals. Nevertheless, all four Mercer boys love their adopted mother and when she's gunned down in a convenience store robbery, they want payback. The local cops (Terrence Howard and Josh Hamilton) warn them to stay out of their investigation but the Mercers never cared too much about obeying the law.
If I'm making Four Brothers sound like an urban western, well, that's what it is. Its plot is even based on a real western, The Sons Of Katie Elder starring John Wayne. The Duke probably wouldn't have recognised what director John Singleton has done with the story. This is no old school cowboy movie. Drawing inspiration from the tough action movies of the 1970s, Singleton has made a violent, cynical and amoral action thriller set on the corrupt, snowswept streets of Detroit, filled with jarring fistfights, foot chases, gun battles and car crashes and backed by a suitably funky soundtrack.
Singleton's a good action director, although those who have followed his career may find it strange that he's gone from lamenting the violence in American cities in dramas like Boyz N The Hood to glorifying it in hip hop fantasies about guns and bitches. The latter incidentally are represented by "La Vida Loca" (Sofía Vergara), Angel's squealing Latino stereotype of a girlfriend who sadly never gets shot.
As a Saturday night guy movie, Four Brothers fits the bill. It may play better at home than in the cinema. However, it's unlucky enough to have been released in Britain the same week as David Cronenberg's A History Of Violence, a similarly low-tech revenge movie which is not only far more intelligent but more satisfying on the level of an action flick. With competition like that, Four Brothers' flaws are all the more glaring. At an hour and fifty minutes, it's on the long side and there are very few surprises - the twists in the second half actually make the film feel more familiar.
Then there's the miscasting of Mark Wahlberg. Now Wahlberg's a very good actor given a decent role but he just isn't convincing as a bad-ass from the streets no matter how black he talks. To make matters worse, Singleton directs him as if he were a force to be reckoned with. Check out the Lawrence Of Arabia long shot of him arriving for the final showdown. His costar Tyrese Gibson, who really does look like a bad-ass, must be wondering why he's stuck playing second banana to the likes of Wahlberg and Paul Walker (2 Fast 2 Furious) in the kind of black-oriented urban action movies that, by rights, he ought to be headlining.