Movie Review: Four Brothers

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Four brothers come home when their adoptive mother is murdered and make plans to avenge her death.

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John Singleton, 2005

After their mother is shot dead in a convenience store, the Mercer brothers come back together in Detroit for the first time in years to attend her funeral. Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), Angel (Tyrese Gibson), Jeremiah (AndrĂ© 3000), and Jack (Garrett Hedlund) mourn their mother, believing her murder to be random at first. However, they start to find clues that hint that there was a hit put out on Evelyn (Fionnula Flanagan). The follow a trail of clues and bodies back to Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a ruthless local gangster with a twisted sense of humour. With the help and hindrance of police officer Lt. Green (Terrence Howard), the four brothers risk everything to take Sweet down. However, Sweet’s influence extends further than they know, and their tenuous bonds are strained by their quest for revenge.

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I wasn’t expecting much from Four Brothers. I knew it would be a violent gang drama. I hoped for some good performances, and maybe an exploration of the complicated relationships between four adopted adult brothers from different backgrounds. I have a certain fondness for brotherly relationships, but I don’t really know what we were supposed to be feeling for the brothers in this movie. Only Hedlund and Wahlberg sold any kind of genuine connection between their characters. This could be a writing problem – they are the most developed of the brothers (which I’m sure had nothing at all to do with their whiteness) (no, I’m lying, it was probably entirely to do with that) – but they also give better performances overall. Garrett Hedlund is all exposed nerves and vulnerability as musically-inclined Jack, while Wahlberg manages to make the obnoxious, violent Bobby actually sympathetic on occasion, which is no mean feat. It feels like they wanted to go somewhere with Jeremiah, but his failed-business storyline doesn’t really stick. Angel is just kind of…there, being annoying with his annoying girlfriend (a screechy, one-note, completely misused Sofia Vergara). This is a testosterone-fuelled revenge fantasy with no space for women, and all the girls are one-note caricatures performed by excellent actresses like Taraji P. Henson.

By far the best performance of the film comes from Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is terrifyingly twisted as Victor Sweet. His fondness for humiliating anyone he feels has wronged him leads to easily the most horrible, memorable moments of the film. He is a blisteringly scary bad guy, and his fate is ultimately perfectly appropriate. It’s a shame the film is so inconsistent in its storytelling that the ending feels too long coming, though. It seems to meander through its various story arcs without a genuine sense of urgency, despite the level of violence on display. The characters are largely unlikeable, which makes it hard to root for them despite the obvious evil of Victor Sweet. There are some really uncomfortable scenes were threats of violence are made around children, but there’s not a whole lot of commentary; the movie seems confused about whether it wants to be a straightforward revenge tale or a cautionary one, and it ends up falling short on both counts.

Four Brothers on IMDb

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