Directed by: John Singleton
Premise: Four men reunite when their adoptive mother is killed in a mysterious shooting and they begin a violent investigation.
What Works: Although the plot of Four Brothers is borrowed from the revenge films of the 1970s and 80s, such as Death Wish, the film is very much a western set in an urban environment. It has some very nice sequences between the four siblings (Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin, and Garrett Hedlund) as they deal with their grief and the film has some surprisingly tender moments of familial male intimacy that contrasts with scenes of brutal violence.
What Doesn’t: Although the film starts out promising, it goes awry when it plays on too many clichés of the revenge genre. Rather than building on the dichotomy between these men dealing with the consequences of violence and then perpetuating it, Four Brothers lets an action film mentality take over that ignores the consequences of the character’s actions. It is also troublesome because, on the one hand, the virtue of the dead mother was that her charity had saved these men from a life of violence, but in their pursuit for vengeance they renounce the civility she has imbued in them and embrace the life of crime that she had supposedly saved them from. The film never addresses these problems. The villains of the film and the supporting cast are not given appropriate treatment. The chief villain (Chiwetel Ejiofor) comes off as a cartoonish exaggeration, and he does not match the tone of the rest of the picture.
Bottom Line: Four Brothers works as an escapist action picture but if its story is held to scrutiny it has some real problems. John Singleton is a good director who has a real sense for portraying male relationship and does well in executing action sequences. Unfortunately this film is not his best moment.
Episode: #64 (August 14, 2005)