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FOUR BROTHERS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund, Terrence Howard, Josh Charles, Chiwetel Ejiofor
Director: John Singleton
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: December 20, 2005

“If you keep knocking on the Devil’s door long enough, somebody’s gonna answer you.”

Film ***

John Singleton has emerged as a director specializing in urban action thrillers. His first film, 1991’s Boyz N the Hood, established him as a visceral filmmaking talent. Since then, Singleton has switched gears, making much larger scale productions as Shaft, Rosewood and 2 Fast 2 Furious.

His latest movie, Four Brothers, is one of his best films since Boyz N the Hood. It’s an urban western mixed with some film noir touches. At its core, it’s a revenge movie, and one of the grittier ones to come around in recent memory.

What sets the plot in motion is the brutal killing of a friendly elderly woman in a Detroit convenience store. The murder of the woman, Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan), reunites four young men who were once under her care at a foster home. The men consider themselves close enough to be called brothers. They are hot-tempered Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), ladies man Angel (Tyrese Gibson), family man Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin) and punk rocker Jack (Garrett Hedlund).

Though the murder, caught on a store camera, appears to be just another robbery-associated murder, the men suspect something more behind it, and proceed to go knocking down doors until they find the very people responsible. The cops on the case (Terrence Howard and Josh Charles) advise them to let the police handle it, which of course ignored is in a heartbeat.

As the story progresses, Bobby and his brothers do come across some unsavory individuals and administer some violent blows, as their revenge trail leads all the way to reputed Detroit crime boss Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The plot gets thicker and more intense when it is revealed that one of the brothers may have secretly been profiting from the murder in the form of insurance money.

At this point, I don’t think it’s fair to reveal any further plot details. What I can tell you is that Four Brothers is one of the most effortlessly crafted and executed action thrillers I’ve seen in some time. And Singleton has truly become a master of style in his films. He turns Detroit into a snowy landscape, which is most fitting for an urban western.

The action in the movie is of top-notch quality, as well. I was reminded of Singleton’s flawless executing of action in his Shaft remake. Here, there are many sequences that will strike you. There’s an early car chase on icy roads. The movie ends with a brutal fistfight on a frozen lake, with the loser having to be buried in the icy waters. The big capper is a shootout midway through the movie, where the brothers are unexpectedly ambushed by thugs wearing hockey masks.

Director Singleton and his terrific cast shine in this intense urban thriller. Four Brothers is extravagant entertainment, with a tightly wound story to boot.

Video ****

Paramount’s anamorphic handling of this visually engaging film is nothing short of outstanding. The snowy Detroit setting allows for many bright and incredibly detailed shots. The image quality is consistently crisp and clear. Both day and night sequences are terrifically handled, and colors are a blast, as well.

Audio ****

The 5.1 mix serves this action thriller incredibly well. The movie is alive with a great soundtrack of old soul tracks. And the action numbers are as intense as they come in the DVD format. The shootout scene I mentioned is a pure show-stopping moment. Dialogue delivery is terrific and every sound element blends together superbly.

Features ***1/2

Paramount has loaded this Special Collector’s Edition quite nicely. Included is a commentary track with John Singleton, as well as four featurettes; “The Look of Four Brothers”, “Crafting Four Brothers”, “Behind the Brotherhood” and “Mercer House Shootout”. Also featured are 9 deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer and bonus previews.

Summary:

Four Brothers is a nice, rare mix of hardcore action and gripping storytelling. Both elements are big traits of director John Singleton, who has made, I think, one his best films since his filmmaking breakthrough nearly fifteen years ago.

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