Saturday, August 13, 2005

Reel To Reel:
Four Brothers

How It Rates: ***1/2
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Andre Benjamin, Tyrese Gibson
Rated: R
Red Flags: Strong Language, Graphic Intense Violence, One Sex Scene

Preconceived Notions: Mystic River meets Boyz 'N The Hood
The Bottom Line: A solid, street-wise shoot-'em-up.

Director John Singleton, who broke out with Boys 'N The Hood, goes back to the 'hood for a revenge film with a gansta twist. Four Brothers could have been called Rejects II Society if they hadn't been adopted by a loving Irish-Catholic mother who's fostered dozens of problem kids. Bobby (Wahlberg) is the tough guy eager to carry out pavement justice. Angel (Gibson) is the military man who can handle his own. Jeremiah (Benjamin) has got a wife, kids, a plans for a high-end loft development. And Jack (Garrett Hedlund) has been rocking out, probably with the sex and drugs part in there too. Two are white, two are black.

The film, set in crime-plagued Detroit, wastes no time in getting us to what brings these four back together: the murder of dear Mother in a corner-store robbery. The cops tell Bobby it's a robbery, be cool, we're on it. Growing up on the mean streets, Bobby's not convinced the cops give a damn. So he and the guys take up their own investigation, true to that ghetto credo, "Pray for a peace, work it for justice." What the four brothers find is something much more complicated than two hoodlums pulling a small-time job.

Four Brothers' plot twists seem a little too complex to be believable. But in the manner of the Leathal Weapon series, we really don't care because we're too busy rooting for the good guys to get hung up on each rung of the ladder. Singleton keeps the focus on the family and the action, including a whopper of a gunfight and two intense chase sequences.

Another highlight -- the film's Motown soundtrack, which reminded me of the cool soulfulness of Jackie Brown, although Quentin Tarantino could have made this film a more stylish blaxploitation flick. But I digress. Just sit down and roll.