Bound by love for their slain adoptive mother, the brothers in Four Brothers form a unique quartet that gives John Singleton's film a razor's edge of redemption. It's a thin edge, to be sure, because while Singleton's urba... more »n Western pays homage to the Blaxpoitation films of the '70s (as he did with his remake of Shaft), it walks a fine line of credibility with a mythic vengeance plot (recalling John Wayne's 1965 hit The Sons of Katie Elder) that endorses violence as the last resort of a family under siege. When a saintly foster mother (Fionnula Flanagan) is gunned down in a convenience store, her only adopted sons (two white, two black, played respectively by Mark Wahlberg, Garrett Hedlund, Tyrese Gibson and Andre Benjamin) go after the killers, only to discover that their mother's death was not a random event. As they uncover a sticky web of criminal activity involving a local kingpin (Chiwitel Ejiofor), the character-driven plot races toward an inevitable showdown, with ex-con Wahlberg leading the way. Making excellent use of blue collar locations in Detroit, Singleton keeps the action moving fast enough that the film's lack of realism is easily ignored, and the well-drawn characters (including Terrence Howard as a tenacious detective) lend emotional dimension to an otherwise familiar revenge scenario. Four Brothers is manipulative, but it's filled with grace notes of rugged working-class humanity, and it definitely holds your attention. --Jeff Shannon« less
Jennifer D. (jennicat) from ST AUGUSTINE, FL Reviewed on 3/29/2014...
Loved the film.
Effective, well-made drama
thornhillatthemovies.com | Venice, CA United States | 08/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Bobby Mercer (Mark Wahlberg) drives into his childhood Detroit neighborhood, returning home to bury his adopted mother, Evelyn (Fionnula Flanagan, "The Others"). At the funeral, he meets up with two of his three other brothers; Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin of Outkast fame), now a family and business man, and Jack (Garret Hedlund). Evelyn was the foster mother for hundreds of kids and adopted Bobby and his brothers when no one would have them. After the funeral, they return to her house and find their fourth sibling, Angel (Tyrese Gibson), sitting on the porch. Soon, they learn that Evelyn's death, during a convenience store robbery, may have been more than a simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. An old childhood friend, Green (Terrence Howard, "Hustle and Flow", "Crash"), now a detective, warns them against taking matters into their own hands. But take matters they do, and they begin to investigate, leading them closer and closer to a local gangster, Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Dirty Pretty Things", "Melinda and Melinda").
When you read the synopsis of "Four Brothers", or hear about it, each of the elements seems to say "Huh? That won't work. That can't work." But combined, and married to good acting, good writing and good directing by John Singleton, the film is a surprisingly effective dramatic tale.
The key to the film's success is that it is R-rated. I don't necessarily need to see an R-rated film every time I go to the movies, but if the film is about four men trying to find the person who killed their mother, on the mean streets of Detroit, an R-rating will allow the filmmaker to be more realistic. In this age of PG-13 horror and action films, something gets lost. In a horror film, I expect to see some blood. In a PG-13 horror film, you aren't going to see a lot. In an R-rated action film, I expect to see some violence. "Brothers" is all the more realistic because Bobby and his siblings throw some punches, people get hit by bullets and they use some R-rated words. They grew up in the slums of Detroit. I wouldn't expect them to say "Gee, I'm sorry for that" or something equally as innocuous. And because the story centers on their quest to find a killer, some violence is to be expected. And delivered. Much like the recent R-rated "Wedding Crashers", filled with rating appropriate humor, I applaud this recent trend to deliver films with content appropriate ratings rather than trying to tailor the content for a kid-friendly (or a teenager friendly) rating. Filmmakers should stand by their vision and not allow it to be changed to meet an artificial rating.
Because of the R-rating, Singleton is able to allow the characters to be true to themselves. Because Bobby lives in a violent world, he doesn't have to think twice about using violence to get to his goal. Bobby is a really complex character and Wahlberg does a great job of conveying the conflicting emotions at work. Green introduces each of the Mercer boys to his partner, Fowler (Josh Charles), as they sit in their car watching each arrive for the funeral. After Green describes their various criminal records, Fowler is incredulous that Evelyn is regarded so highly in the community. "But, they are all the Dalai Lama compared to what they would've been without her influence." Bobby is clearly affected by his mother's memory and influence, especially staying in her home, but he desperately wants to find out the truth. As the oldest of the four boys, he also has to provide protection and leadership to his brothers.
Andre Benjamin is also surprisingly good. Often musicians don't make the transition to film well (Hello, Mariah Carey? Lance Bass? Justin Timberlake?), but Benjamin shows some real acting ability. He also shows his seriousness for the medium and doesn't sing during the film, or on the soundtrack. He is a family man with a wife and two daughters to think about, so he doesn't participate as quickly in his brothers' scheme. But when he becomes linked to the action, he realizes he has no choice and reluctantly participates. Angel and Jack are really Bobby's henchmen throughout, following him without objection to any corner of the neighborhood.
Terrence Howard does some good work as Green, but it is a supporting role and, compared to his other work in "Crash" and "Hustle and Flow", unremarkable.
As Evelyn, Fionnula Flanagan has the least amount of screen time, but she manages to instantly convey why this woman was so revered in the community. Before she is shot, she has a brief exchange with a local boy in the convenience store, quickly establishing her character. Later in the film, each of the boys imagines her talking to them. All of these appearances establish her as a tough, but kind woman who is only afraid when someone is pointing a gun at her face.
Chiwetel Ejiofor plays one of the most chilling villains in a long time. Victor Sweet is a vicious man and will take anything and kill anyone he wants. The final scenes involving him are particularly memorable, because the outcome is unexpected, yet believable.
Singleton is clearly trying to evoke the feel of gangster films from the 70s; Wahlberg even drives around in an old car from this period throughout most of the film. The cinematography is gritty and the soundtrack is filled with songs from this era. All of this adds to the feel of the film, making everything stand out.
But the film is most successful because it doesn't pull any punches. "Four Brothers" is a gritty, violent, believable look at the revenge four brothers take for their beloved mother's death. "
Four Brothers gets Four Stars and my personal approval
Eddie Lancekick | Pacific Northwest | 08/15/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Four brothers is a movie that seems to touch on several themes but does not delve to deep into any of them. This is okay, because though it's slow at times when developing the setting showing the chemistry between these guys, there are some explosive shootouts, intense chase scenes, and a great finale that takes place on a frozen lake. The film plot is simple: Four "foster" brothers, 2 African American, 2 Caucasian, reunite at the house they were raised in after their adoptive mother is murdered in a store robbery. The film throws a plethora of possible suspects at us, including one of the brothers. Cops, gangs, and hoods of all types are tracked down, dealt with, questioned, and deemed suspicious as the four make there way throughout the overcast, drab setting of the motor city in search of the killer.
The film isn't all about retribution and revenge, though, it's got it's comedy parts thrown in as well which add a good flame to the fire that is the mix of themes and characters the show deals us. The first thing that really sticks out in my mind is the setting. The cinematic landscape that is Detroit in winter time is very well shot, as we are thrust into suburbia of yester year. Small, old two story houses draped with snow, coupled with dirty cars from the constant road grime father winter has dealt them, give us a great feel that we are THERE. The industrious side of town is just that. It's a little rough, tough, and stands the test of time, even though it's occupants in this story, may not! Garret Hedlund, Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson and Andre Benjamin are the brothers as they all share the desire to find the convenience store killers. Soon, however, they find out that there is much more to it than her just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The camaraderie with the "brothers" is fabulous, as they laugh and cry together, and really do come across as a tight knit group. Traveling through the blue collar landscape to various locales in search of various leads, there are times when things get heated. There is a nighttime car chase scene on icy roads that is fabulously done. There is a fire filled shootout as the brothers take on some gun toting fellas that are part of the suspect equation. John Singleton does an excellent job pushing the actors to convey the specific personalities their characters are to possess, which in turn helps create a great cohesiveness within the group. Wahlberg does an excellent job in his role as Bobby Mercer, no nonsense man who doesn't trust outsiders and is outgoing in getting his point across, even if it comes to violence and demeaning threats. As the movie rolls on, it stretches out from the central murder scene and the suspects the boys take on and begins to evolve into a much bigger picture. There are Bigger, more powerful forces involved that may be more than the brothers can understand, or take on. Will they get to those involved? Will corruption or death come to one or more of them? It will all be told and end on an icy lake, where you never know what is going to happen, till it does with acute irony. Terrance Howard, a rising star in his own right, is also in this film. With the various stars and up and coming stars (like Chiwetel Ejiofor and Tyrese Gibson) that are put together for this film, there is never a dry scene, and never a dull moment. The ability to mix in the mystery of who killed Evelyn Mercer coupled with theme "you can never go home again" while the brothers try and survive in their very own urban jungle, is great. The movie has a good pace to it and though you know what happens in the end, I think this film will be a cult icon in the DVD noire, much like Point Break. It will be a film you can never get tired of watching because there is just enough to it to make it enjoyable in later viewings of it.
Fionnula Flanagan plays the slain mom, Evelyn Mercer. Though her demise happens early, we see her throughout the film through the eyes of her adoptive sons. Each one has a big heart with many special memories of her that intertwine themselves in and out of scenes throughout the movie, further driving home the anger and frustration, and bewilderment of her death, and why catching the killer is all the more tough. The soundtrack for the film is good as we hear several Marvin Gaye tunes. The four tops song "Shake me/Wake me (when it's over) is also featured. A tune by the Jackson five as well. A couple hits by "The Temptations" are also in the movie. The songs fit old school look of the industrial area many of the scenes are shot in, as well as give us a feel of nostalgia for the four brothers who's childhood days are long behind them.
I saw this in the theater and was pleased. The only slow parts are just scenes showing the brothers sitting around reminiscing, but these scenes are extremely important to the meat of this film as it continues to show how these four men are tied together as a family as well as continue to drive the point home of why they're feelings of revenge will feel justified. Great modern day urban crime drama with Detroit as the backdrop."
An Action/Suspense Movie with Substance
Patrick B. Holmes | Pittsburgh, PA | 10/12/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I remember catching the trailer for this and being intrigued by the cast and the plot. After leaving the theater, the movie still hasn't left me. The acting, top to bottom, was exceptional, especially the chemistry between 'the brothers'. The action scenes were incredible with some of the most awesome cars chases and shoot-out scenes I've seen. John Singletion is definitely an excellet and still-growing director who has outdone himself with 'Four Brothers'. Why are their comparisons between 'Boyz In Tha Hood' and 'Four brothers' ? Two totally different movies. BITH is a coming of age movie, FB is about bonds and sacrifice. Well worth a multiple look and a must have if you're into action and/or crime dramas whether you're a teenager or not."
Over the top, but so was Shakespeare and Sophocles
JackOfMostTrades | Washington, DC | 10/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Four Brothers, (actually stepbrothers) two white, two black, acted masterfully by Mark Wahlberg, Garrett Hedlund, Tyrese Gibson and Andre Benjamin is a great revenge movie, but within the intricacies of its plot and characters lie primal emotions that, while often lambasted by movie critics and 'independent film' aficianados is the stuff that makes opera, ballet, and other art forms that go for raw, unabashed, unapologetic emotional classics. The four brothers--bound by love--rather than blood, show us that emotional bonds can reach a cosmic level, overshadowing the mundane, anemic relationships of so-caled family films and romantic films that fill the large screen and the boob tube. In this regard, the characters are 'larger than life' as was Macbeth or Oedipus, and their fate and motivations are beyond the pale of the everyday,while the extremes of emotion complement the extremes of what is at stake, but isn't that why we go to most movies in the first place? This film portrays four warriors--each with a flaw, one is belligerant; another is at the beck & call of his Latina girlfriend; another is a hip but physically fragile local rock musician (and gay)and a bit out of place in this rough, corrupt world; another strives to make it in the world of affluence, only to find its corruption is as nefarious as life on the street--yet all who manage to create a synergy through their love for one another that is able to overcome the world of corruption of Detroit underworld (Hades)they are forced to confront over the murder of their "earth mother/foster mother." There's violence in the film; but there's just as much if not more in Shakespeare or Greek drama. Unlike those earlier versions, the familial loyalty to one another is what counts and color, class, sexual preference are shown to be irrelevant when the ties that bind are true. The dialogue is clever and crisp, and has that rare combination of being artifice, with the feel of a poetry slam while accurately imitating 'real' street talk The action is as riveting as the banter, and although there is one 'required' blaze of gunfire scene that could have been toned down a bit, the film is faithful to the roots of tragedy--albeit here the characters are imperfect gods of the neighborhood rather than of Olympus. One would be hesitant to say a revenge film promotes family values, but the respect these four very different personalities have for one another--despite their human shortcomings--is a lesson many Americans should take to heart. And I sure hope nobody complains that the 'brother in charge' is white because of caucasian control of the media; the director/writer is John Singleton."
Brotherhood and Revenge: A Study in Fighting Crime
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 12/28/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"John Singleton has a gift for depicting the gritty side of life and making it credible: there are reasons for heads-up defensive action in neighborhoods where perpetrators and victims live side by side in a world teetering on imbalance.
FOUR BROTHERS is a finely tuned, taut little film that demonstrates the influence of a caring adult on kids with little future can impact lives. Evelyn Mercer (a terrific Fionnula Flanagan) is a single woman who adopted four orphans as children and raised them tightly bonded brothers: two are white (ex-con Bobby - Mark Wahlberg - and gay musician Jack - Garrett Hedlund: two are African American - (gentle Angel - Tyrese Gibson - and stay-at-home businessman Jeremiah - André Benjamin). The four brothers reunite when their mother is killed during a store holdup. Knowing that the Detroit police are a corrupt organization they take matters into their own hands, seeking out their mother's killers. Along the way they discover aspects of each other that draw them eventually even closer as brothers.
The cast is excellent with fine cameo performances from Terrence Howard and Josh Charles as polar opposite policemen, from Flanagan (who though murdered in the first frames of the film reappears to 'spiritually' influence the brothers), Chiwetel Ejiofor as the bad guy, Taraji P. Henson as Jeremiah's wife and Sofía Vergara as Angel's girlfriend. The story is solid if a bit predictable, but the messages are many about racism, brotherhood, family importance, and awareness of police corruption. Singleton directs with breakneck speed yet allows us time to get to know everyone in the story. This is a dandy action film with a heart. Grady Harp, December 05"