|Four Brothers (2005)
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, André Benjamin, Tyrese Gibson, Garret, Hedlund, Terrence Howard
Director: John Singleton
A long, long time ago, John Singleton was the hottest upcoming director in the industry. Fresh off his directorial debut “Boyz n the Hood” – which made him the youngest man to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Director – Singleton was close to catching up with Spike Lee as independent Hollywood’s most influential urban director, before vanishing from the scene for almost five years. He returned at the dawn of the new millennium with a handful of not-so-impressive commercial films, including “Shaft” and “2 Fast 2 Furious," but 2005 might just be the year of Singleton’s much-anticipated revival.
Following the success of the self-produced “Hustle & Flow,” the veteran director delivers his best film in over a decade with the revenge drama “Four Brothers.” Loosely based on the classic western “The Sons of Katie Elder,” “Four Brothers” tells the tale of four childhood delinquents who were brought in and cared for by community do-gooder Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan). The four Mercer boys include: head of the family and resident hothead Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), street smart Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin), ladies man Angel (Tyrese Gibson), and little brother Jack (Garrett Hedlund). When Evelyn is murdered during a convenience store holdup, the brothers return home to exact revenge on the thugs who ruthlessly killed their beloved mother, but they soon discover that there’s more to suspect in the seemingly routine crime.
Mark Wahlberg shines as the film’s star, and it’s refreshing to see the actor let loose as the confrontational thug, but he’s backed up with identical poise from Tyrese Gibson, who’s coming into his own as an actor. The duo share a lot of time on screen as they deal out a majority of the pain, and they play off one another with charming sibling chemistry. Both Andre Benjamin and relative newcomer Garrett Hedlund are left for the vultures with smaller roles that don’t score as much appeal, but a much needed breath of fresh air arrives when Terrence Howard steps into the picture as one of the only trustworthy cops in the city.
Singleton concocts a satisfying blend of action and drama in his latest venture, but he does little to develop the background lives of each of the four brothers. Offering hints at what the characters have been up to between the time they left and their unplanned return, Singleton fails to capitalize on the chance to win over his audience with some great detail. Luckily for him, the film manages to serve up enough high-powered action sequences and low-key jokes to keep the audience engaged the whole way through. A gritty nighttime car chase in the middle of a snow storm, and an old-fashioned shootout featuring lots and lots of firepower are the film’s two greatest moments, but Singleton backs up his action-driven storyline with an echoing theme of brotherhood. The month of August may not have much to offer in the way of cinematic excellence, but “Four Brothers” is guaranteed to be one of the most entertaining trips to the movies you’ll take all year.
The widescreen DVD release of John Singleton’s “Four Brothers” offers a nice selection of special features, including an excellent director commentary, in which Singleton states that he had never even seen “The Sons of Katie Elder” before starting work on the film. Yeah right, John. Also featured on the single-disc release are a handful of production featurettes focusing on the look and origin of the film (“Crafting Four Brothers”), its characters (“Behind the Brotherhood”), and the making-of the Mercer house shootout. Nine deleted scenes are available as well, and while they add to the development of the story, none are important enough to warrant a part in the movie.