Four Brothers

August, 2005, Thriller

Directed by:John Singleton

Starring:Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund, Terrence Howard, Josh Charles, Lyriq Bent, and and Chiwetel Ejiofor

In 1991, a young African-American writer/director by the name of John Singleton gave Hollywood audiences a bracing and tragic taste of Los Angles ghetto life with his first movie, Boyz in the Hood. His next six films were a curious mixture of melodrama, (Higher Learning) black history (Rosewood) and main-stream crime drama (Shaft) none of which came close to displaying the promise of his maiden effort. Singleton will surely do well economically with this urban re-make of John Wayne’s Sons of Katie Elder, but it won’t do anything for his reputation; Brothers is a hackneyed return to the “blacksploitation” genre of the 1960’s and its expletive-laden script, (co-authored by David Elliot and Paul Lovett) sadly demonstrates that our culture’s obsession with racial and sexual stereotypes continues to permit mainstream movies to present as acceptable and honorable an offensive amount of verbal bigotry.

Using Detroit’s gritty streets quite effectively as the setting for his story, Singleton traces the violent death of an innocent foster mother and its subsequent investigation by four of her now-grown foster children. As played by Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin and Garret Hedlund, this quartet of former/present miscreants manages to cover all the action-flick cliché like a glove; a tough guy with a violent temper who’s the team’s driving force, a handsome black man so sexually potent that women can’t help coming on to him, a weakling (translation: gay) who suffers terribly at the hands of various street punks and criminals and finally, (as a sop to the politically correct) a hard working black family man who’s reluctant to get involved in the thoroughly illegal methods the other three employ to uncover those responsible for the murder and extract their revenge. 

All this is accompanied by the usual action-movie’s overly generous dose of mayhem; an auto chase so improbable it abandons any pretense at credibility, a shootout reminiscent of the over-the-top climax of Brian de Palma’s Scarface and a final confrontation on the ice-covered waters of Lake Superior that looks great and makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

 None of this begins to approach the genuine tension and power of the director’s first film, but he’s assembled this nonsense with a shrewd eye to the box-office; can over $50 million in ticket sales be wrong? Sadly, the answer is yes.   

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