Let it never be said that I am not all about consumer rights. I must admit to having used my usual short-hand for mediocre flicks in describing FOUR BROTHERS as a "p*ss-poor seventies remake". It really isn't that bad. On the other hand, it really isn't that good. Let me break it down for you. Once upon a time, there was a talented black director called John Singleton who made movies that went beyond gangsta-rap stereotypes and were as emotionally engaging as they were slick. But it has been a long time since flicks like Boyz'n'the hood. Every time I see a Singleton movie lined up I get all hopeful, only to have my optimisim dashed on the rocks of tired cliche.
FOUR BROTHERS is another lazy film that aspires to break beyond the stereotype of the standard gangsta revenge flick but fails miserably. It tells the superficially politically correct tale of four adopted brothers - two black, two white - whose mother is shot down in a robery gone wrong. After her death, they set out to avenge her. The script was written by two guys who grew up watching spaghetti westerns and have supposedly ripped on the genre but what we really get is the standard buddy movie crossed with a very thinly plotted thriller. When a beloved cast member dies, you know his best friend is shouting "Breathe! Just breathe!" When one of the good guys goes of to war, you know his wife will tell the best friend, "Just bring him back to me in one piece". You can probably buy these pages by the yard at WalMart. And believe me, you'll have figured out who the patsy is, and who the real villain is, by around 30 minutes in.
The performances are fairly indifferent. In particular, Chiwetel Ejiofor, the wonderful lead actor in DIRTY PRETTY THINGS, is completely mis-cast as the gangster, Sweets. Wahlberg is on auto-pilot as big brother Mercer, and the other three brothers are largely forgettable. Terrence Howard - the tremendous actor from HUSTLE AND FLOW - has a small and powerful cameo as a copper, but for some inexplicable reason Singleton cast sometime-teen-idol Josh Charles as his sidekick. Another case of an actor being either horribly mis-cast or just not terribly good.
On a technical level there is nothing wrong with the flick. The photography is in typical "Western" style - lots of master shots with the good guys on one side of the frame and the bad guys on the other. However, I have serious issues with the soundtrack. The songs are all soul and funk classics from the late 1960s and 1970s. The songs evoke a certain era of film-making, namely blaxploitation flicks. This just adds another layer to the "genre confusion" within FOUR BROTHERS. Is it a thriller? A blaxploitation flick? An urban western? In the end, I think it falls through the cracks into the wide chasm of mediocrity below.
FOUR BROTHERS was on cinematic release in autumn 2005. It is now available on DVD.