February 25, 2006
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, André Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund, Terrence Howard, Josh Charles, Sofia Vergara, Flonnula Flanagan, Barry Shabaka Henley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kenneth Welsh,
The set-up for Four Brothers (2005) is classic B-movie fodder: four buddies reunite after many years to avenge the death of a loved one. As young foster kids they were considered to be lost causes and a kind woman (Flanagan) raised them on her own. Present day and she happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and is murdered by two guys with guns holding up a convenience store. The four brothers reunite and find out who killed her and dish out some much needed revenge.
The characters are pure genre stereotypes: Bobby (Wahlberg) was the star athlete with an attitude problem that always got him in trouble. Jack (Hedlund) is the youngest and a wannabe rock star. Jeremiah (Benjamin) is the sensible one and an ambitious entrepreneur. Angel (Gibson) is the pretty ex-hustler turned soldier.
Two cops (Charles and Howard) keep tabs on these guys but you know that they won’t be able to catch those responsible. And so it goes. The four brothers shack up in their mom’s house and pretty soon they’re playing old 45s and bonding over Thanksgiving dinner. They ask around and find out that her murder wasn’t some random crime. She was killed by professionals, execution-style but why?
Director John Singleton continues to have a good eye casting the heavies in his movies – Jeffrey Wright in Shaft (2000) and Chiwetel Ejiofor in Four Brothers. Like Wright, he’s a chameleon, bouncing from such diverse films as Dirty Pretty Things (2002), Serenity (2005) and Four Brothers. He provides the right amount of gravitas and intensity for the role. However, Josh Charles is miscast as one of the cops investigating the murder. His attempts to act like a tough guy are laughable at best. He still can’t shake that hopeless romantic student from Dead Poets Society (1989).
Singleton wisely doesn’t try to get too ambitious, employing just the right amount of flashy style to evoke ’70s crime movies. This is how his remake of Shaft should have gone down but that film was compromised by pressure from the studio and its star which resulted in a too-slick, impersonal effort. Four Brothers has all the right ingredients in the just the right amounts: an exciting car chase, shoot-outs, climatic fist fights, pulpy dialogue riddled with cliches and a retro soundtrack with some killer Motown tunes fitting for the Detroit setting. Unlike Shaft, Four Brothers doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t.
Four Brothers continues the urban gangsta genre with its misogyny. Women in the movie are either bitches or, in the case of the slain mother, a martyred Madonna figure. Singleton has made a serviceable thriller that never lets the narrative momentum lag and follows a predictable arc but does so in an entertaining way.
There is an audio commentary by John Singleton who tends to state the obvious, like explaining that the four dots on the two fuzzy dice at the beginning of the movie represent the four main characters (no kidding?!). Singleton wanted the opening sequence to evoke a ‘70s drive-in movie and to this end used techniques of the era like zooms and other camera movements popular during that era. He praises the moments where he let the actors go off the script and improvise which comes off as rather amusing when you think about guys like Mark Wahlberg and Tyrese Gibson adlibbing. And it’s even less impressive when you realize most of the improv was just brotherly insults between the four main characters.
“The Look of Four Brothers.” Singleton felt that the movie was akin to a modern western: classic composition, little editing with the four main characters often framed together. He also wanted to use the snow and cold Detroit weather almost like another character.
“Crafting Four Brothers” takes a look at the screenplay and how the screenwriters wanted to craft an urban western with Bobby as the lone gunman archetype. They worked hard to establish an emotional bond between the four main characters.
“Behind the Brotherhood” examines the bond that the four brothers have with each other. Wahlberg was the veteran actor amongst the four leads and helped the others out with any problems they might have had. All four actors praise each other and talk about their characters.
“Mercer House Shootout” examines the film’s exciting gun battle. Singleton did not want to make it look slick or pretty and wanted to orchestrate a certain rhythm and flow. We get an idea of how they pulled this sequence off.
Also included are nine deleted scenes totaling 11 minutes. We see more of the mother about to be killed in the store and more of her funeral with testimonials from her kids. Mostly, we get more footage of the four brothers and the relationships between them.
Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.