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Four Brothers

Mama's Boys

Director John Singleton (best known for his first film Boyz n the Hood) brings you the tale of the Mercer brothers, an unruly yet unified foursome who were adopted by the saintly Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan) and raised as a family. The brothers -- tough guy Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), con man Tyrese (Tyrese Gibson), aspiring Volvo-driving yuppy Jeremiah (André 3000) and the youngest Jack (Garrett Hedlund), a punk -- once hardened, unruly juvenile delinquents roaming the streets of Detroit have blossomed, through the love and care of their mother, into criminals with a conscious. After she is brutally murdered, however, they revert back to their former selves.

The film focuses on unraveling the mystery behind the murder as the four brothers charge through the Detroit underworld to avenge the death of their beloved matriarch. Like the Detroit winter in which it is shot, the movie is gritty and harsh. Of course, what's winter without warm houses and hot cups of cocoa? Along that vein, Four Brothers is also emotional and tender, particularly when the siblings recall moments with their mom. The most accessible moments were the quiet ones in which, rather than firing guns or throwing punches, the brothers just hang out and act like goofs. These scenes come across as natural rather than affected; the chemistry between the actors is palpable. They are also what differentiate this movie from all the other urban dramas out there.
There is a good balance of visceral violence as well as very real emotions.

Writers David Elliot and Paul Lovett offer up an engaging and nuanced script with plenty of twists. One of the most compelling scenes in Four Brothers takes place between the well-connected and ruthless gangster Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor, who is as always excellent) and his men. After they botch an important assignment, he confronts them in his restaurant during a meal. A beefy crony sneaks in a bite of pasta; Sweet throws the plate on the floor and proceeds to force the man, along with his wife, to eat off the floor like dogs. This scene alone is one of the best illustrations of power dynamics in the criminal world seen to date. Four Brothers also features an incredible car chase through the snowy urban streets. It's amazing not because of any huge explosions or complicated special effects but because it was so "realistic".

The performances are all top notch, especially that of André 3000 and Garrett Hedlund who both bring a poignant vulnerability to their roles. Besides the violence and the mystery, Four Brothers, is essentially about family. And while it is not exactly considered or marketed as a "family" movie, it is definitely worth checking out, with your siblings or not.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars