Movie Review
Four Brothers
Four Brothers poster
By Scott Sycamore     Published August 17, 2005
US Release: August 12, 2005

Directed by: John Singleton
Starring: Mark Wahlberg , Terrence Howard , Tyrese , Chiwetel Ejiofor

Running Time: 109 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $74,484,168
People might praise it for being gritty or the fact that it's a decent mind-numb flick for the middlebrow set, but to me it just came off as staged and boring.
I have to admit that I had hopes for this movie to be decent. John Singleton is a director who can make solid entertainment, and actually with a fair amount of replay value as well. When I first saw "Shaft" (B) and "Baby Boy" (B) I didn't think they were very good. But on a second viewing, they took on a different dimension; I realized that they were unique, engaging films (there's gotta be a reason that Singleton was the youngest person ever nominated for Best Director at the tender age of 24 - for "Boyz n the Hood" in 1991). Even though I thought Boyz was overrated, I still respect the talent that John can bring to the game. Four Brothers may be helped slightly by the aforementioned re-watch factor, but I doubt it at this point. This movie builds up and then never reaches the level of excitement that it thinks it does. People might praise it for being gritty or the fact that it's a decent mind-numb flick for the middlebrow set, but to me it just came off as staged and boring.

The Four Brothers of the title (played by 3 rap/R&B stars plus an unknown white guy whose character is an up-and-coming musician) are ex-street kids with diverse personalities. They all grew up in the same hard 'hood of Detroit and were looked at as lost causes due to being orphaned and reckless. They were all taken in by Evelyn Mercer, a saintly old woman who is apparently the world's ultimate foster mom. She is murdered in the opening scene and this reunites the brothers after an apparently long absence from each other. We never see them in their younger years, only when they come together after the funeral. Since mom was killed in a convenience store shooting, the brothers immediately decide to drop everything and go look for her killer (I can't remember if they had any evidence yet at that point). The plot then pushes forward and the pieces move around in a somewhat arbitrary fashion; it doesn't really feel like a natural, evolving story where anything can happen. It has a classic structure with conflict, climax, and resolution. And then it ends.

The pace just kind of lurches along rather than just springing to life. The shootouts and violent action scenes are sometimes the only things that come along and break the monotony. Why is it monotonous? Well, none of the Four Brothers are that interesting; their dialogue with each other sounds contrived and pedestrian and lacks the savage wit that one might hope it to have, and we also get a bleak gray-and-brown color palette, which isn't exactly eye-popping visually, even if it does fit the minor tone. And the action scenes aren't that well-handled: a car chase in which the vehicles are mostly obscured by snow, and gunfights in which the bad dudes get picked off a little too easily. It all amounts to something kind of easy cheesy and never feels that intense. None of the elements Singleton uses are pushed far enough into their heightened state; it's middle-of-the-road cinema.

I wasn't impressed by the acting either. Wahlberg irked me for much of his screen time; him playing this badass dude just didn't hit me at all. He's almost Chili Palmer-ish in that he's too tough and cool to be anything other than a movie character. Tyrese doesn't bring much to the table, mostly being Marky Mark's never-scared black accompaniment. He has a thin character and it's not that different from his Baby Boy persona. Andre 3000 was wholly unconvincing as a tough kid or much of anything; he plays like the overrated pop singer that he is. Garrett Hedlund is unlikable and barely registers as Jack, and his character is supposed to provide one of the big emotional moments in the film. And plus we get Chiwetel Ejiofor (there's that unpronounceable guy again!) as one of the most cartoonish and non-menacing gangsta villains in recent memory. And how subtle was it for Singleton to name one of the villains Fowler? It's like he wants to do a comic book movie - and he is, with "Luke Cage." I think you see one of this movie's overall problems: it doesn't take itself seriously - in a bad way.

Four Brothers arrives as a sort of late summer throwaway movie; I don't think it will rise above that stature. There's really not much in it for me to recommend, although I do concede that wannabe tough guys and the easily pleased might enjoy it. It doesn't stand out, even amongst the continuous crop of thoroughly mediocre flicks. It definitely panders to the audience and I can't stand that. It wants to please too much and ends up not satisfying at all.
Scott's Grade: C
Scott's Overall Grading: 417 graded movies
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