Four Brothers Movie Review

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Whoever heard of a "blaxploitation" movie with a white hero? Now you have: Four Brothers. John Singleton pays homage once again to what is apparently one of his favorite cinematic genres, but this time not quite as overt as with his remake of Shaft. And while Brothers can occasionally come off as cheesy as those '70s flicks that inspired it, it's also as much fun to watch with its zany cast of characters, wild action sequences, and booty-shakin' funk and soul soundtrack.

The story is a balls-out revenge tale, opening with the violent death of kindhearted old mother Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan) during a convenience store hold-up. Evelyn's funeral brings home her four adopted sons: mercurial bruiser Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), military man Angel (Tyrese), entrepreneurial Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin aka Outkast's Andre 3000), and semi-famous rocker Jack (Garrett Hedlund). Being back home together brings back memories of the "only woman who ever loved us," but also brings back their thuggish ways, especially when they find out mom's tragic accident may have been murder. That's when the fast-based, Charles Bronson-esque vigilante part of this tale kicks into high gear.

The story is said to be loosely based on the John Wayne western The Sons of Katie Elder; but instead of the Wild West, we get Detroit, and instead of Western we get Superfly-meets-Starsky & Hutch. That means fantastically wooly car chases (one shot in a blizzard is breathtaking) to its high-caliber gun battles to its often hilarious and over-the-top misogynistic dialogue.

Plus, nearly every supporting character is a classic stereotype of the genre: the crooked cop, the good but doomed cop, the hammy crime boss villain (played by a thrilling Chiwetel Ejiofor) who likes to humiliate his goons to humorous effect, and the corrupt local politician. Midway through, you'll be wondering whether the polyester suits and 'fros will make an appearance next.

The pure joy of this film, however, comes in its leads. These four guys seem to love every juicy bit of their parts, and it comes through both individually and together in their evident chemistry. Tyrese may as well be himself, he's so natural as tough-but-tender Angel; Andre 3000 puts out a toned-down sweetness; and Hedlund always seems about to come unhinged as the twisted Jack. But Wahlberg is really this film's Atlas, carrying most of the movie on the strong back of his scene-chewing performance. This role as the roughneck with a heart of gold must've been a blast for him to play, bursting into every frame shouting like a maniac and waving some big gun.

The weakness is just the simple corniness of both its genre and its melodrama. The genre you can get past easily, if you just don't take any of it too seriously; you'll hate it completely otherwise. But, when the film takes itself too seriously - as it does in some of the "touching" moments - it falters.

Lord, bless this turkey.

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Four Brothers Rating

" Good "

Rating: R, 2005


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