**** (out of 5)
August 12, 2005
Mark Wahlberg as BOBBY MERCER
Tyrese Gibson as ANGEL MERCER
Andre Benjamin as JEREMIAH MERCER
Garrett Hedlund as JACK MERCER
Terrence Howard as LT. GREEN
Josh Charles as DETECTIVE FOWLER
Directed by: John Singleton
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There was a time many years ago when John Singleton was going to turn the movie industry on its ears. He was the youngest black director to be nominated for an Academy Award (for his debut film “Boyz in the Hood”). He was hailed as the new Spike Lee and in command of urban cinema.
Then something happened. He had to follow up his critically acclaimed (although in my opinion, a little over-hyped) debut effort. He followed up with a string of solid films, but nothing really caught anyone’s attention like “Boys in Da Hood” did. Sure, there was a blip when he did the new “Shaft” a few years back, but he also was responsible for “2 Fast 2 Furious.”
But in my opinion, Singleton was creatively hibernating. There was a great movie in him, and it finally came out with “Four Brothers.” If you’re a western fan, you might recognize “Four Brothers” as a modern remake of the classic John Wayne movie “The Sons of Katie Elder.” But after a summer of remakes, it’s finally nice to see one that does a remake the way it should be.
“Four Brothers” is a remake of “The Sons of Katie Elder” the way that “The Magnificent Seven” and “A Bug’s Life” were remakes of “The Seven Samurai.” They’re the same story, but they’ve been twisted into a new setting and a new genre.
In “Four Brothers,” the sons of a murdered woman return home to Detroit to bury her. Their mother was the saint of the community, finding homes for abandoned and unwanted children. These four men were the only lost souls that no one wanted, so she took them in. They grew up to be thugs and criminals, but they ended up much better off than they ever would if she hadn’t helped them.
After comparing notes at the funeral, the brothers decide to look deeper into their mother’s death. Soon, they start poking around the underbelly of Detroit. Of course, they uncover more than a simple random act of violence. Without worries about the law and consequences, these four brothers make it their mission to bring justice to their town.
See, even if you’re not a western fan, the story still works. It’s got everything you’d want to see in a film – violence, revenge and a hot Latina girlfriend. Singleton takes the old fashioned western story, complete with a corrupt landowner and tainted lawmen, and he turns out a sharp, popping urban thriller. It’s shot like a Peckinpaw western, only they’re hiding behind junker cars and ramshackle buildings instead of mesas and cactus.
Some scenes run a bit long, and there are a few action moments that don’t seem to make the most sense, but all is forgivable in this otherwise exciting revenge piece.
The cast is a full slate, and very competent. Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin and Garrett Hedlund lead the way as the four brothers. They do justice to the story, which manages to touch deeply into the characters. This was Singleton’s strength with “Boyz in the Hood,” but in “Four Brothers,” he manages to put together a stronger, more cohesive story.