Film review by: Witney Seibold
Director John Singleton has actually made a few meaningful films in his life. Boyz n the Hood was rather good, if you recall, and he did attempt seriousness with Poetic Justice and Higher Learning, though with limited success. He has since, regrettably, sauntered vaguely toward Hollywood-style action glut with films like 2 Fast 2 Furious and the remake of Shaft. His newest, Four Brothers, a slums-of-Detroit-set gangster revenge flick is, sadly, no throwback.
Bobby, Angel, Jeremiah, and Jack, (Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin, and Garrett Hedlund) four foster brothers, have reunited for the first time in years to attend their adoptive mother’s funeral. They are respectively a hothead, a dandy, a hustler, and a wannabe rocker. All of them have had scrapes with the law, and none of them seems upright or stable. These four brothers mourn in an odd way: a good twenty minutes of film is the four of them, post-funeral, playing hockey, trash-talking one another, drinking, and catching up. Then, one evening while drinking, they decide, almost arbitrarily, to start asking around about the circumstances of their sainted mothers’ death. She was killed in a grocery holdup, you see. Of course, as soon as they start sniffing around – a process that involves a lot of threats of setting people on fire, and even more actual punches to the face – the uncover a complex scheme involving the local crime boss (Chiwetel Ejiofor, revealing that he can play slimy shallow comicbook villains as well as soulful humans). A lot of cursing and shooting goes down. The film ends with not a dark Scorsese-ian revenge, but a spirited brawl.
Revenge flicks don’t sit well with me, and this film especially. The four brothers lionize their mother. It is pointed out that she took the four in from the Foster system because no one else would. At the beginning of the film, she is shown giving a heartened lesson to a young boy. She’s played by Fionnula Flanagan, for goodness sake. Then, when we meet her sons, they are petty, spiteful, violent, vengeance-minded people. They may be colorblind, but they’re homophobic and misogynistic. I’m not saying that the sons have to be saints as well; everyone’s allowed their own issues. But it seems to me that these kids didn’t learn a lot about justice from old mummy. But I guess if they were good people, we wouldn’t have been able to have such an action-packed film.