Mark Wahlberg is perfectly cast in "Four Brothers" as an angry, scruffy Detroit greaseball who returns home for the first time in years to avenge his foster-mother's murder during a convenience store robbery.
While not an actor known for his emotional range, here his soft-featured scowl embodies resounding heartbreak without giving an inch on the kind of toughness and bravado that makes his character a loose cannon. How loose? He even tells the investigating cops (one an old friend played by the sublime Terrence Howard) who come to pay their respects that "I'm not here for the funeral."
Reunited with his three brothers -- fellow former delinquents adopted by the kindly but adamant Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan), and played by Garrett Hedlund ("Troy") and talented rappers-turned-actors Andre Benjamin and Tyrese Gibson -- it isn't long before they're literally beating a path through the ghetto toward any suspects they can get their hands on. And it isn't long after that before a conspiracy begins to emerge (the details of which are never entirely clear) involving bankruptcy and insurance money, connections to the mob, and crooked cops and city councilmen.
Inspired by Westerns and Blaxploitation flicks of the 1970s (the soundtrack is even heavy on the Motown), director John Singleton (who made "2 Fast 2 Furious" and "Baby Boy" with Gibson) fills the screen with moody darkness that makes it clear the Mercer boys' impulsive, haphazard vigilantism is not only risking their lives, but also taking a toll on their souls (something the family man among them realizes all too well). Singleton gets another kind of tension from a pair of incredibly executed action sequences, one a midnight car chase on dangerously icy streets and the other an out-manned, out-gunned firefight that could be straight out of a Sergio Leone picture.
But despite the film's strengths -- including strong, diverse lead performances that breathe with authentic brotherly love (and brotherly teasing), and the gifted Chiwetel Ejiofor ("Melinda and Melinda," "Dirty Pretty Things") playing a gangster so chilling his very presence on screen can put you on edge -- "Four Brothers" falls apart completely in the last act.
A total fantasy almost laughably dependent on every villain behaving with 100-percent predictability (and exactly on cue) as the Mercer boys spring their traps for retribution, the absurd finale is a fatal blow to an otherwise solid, gritty revenge movie in which a few lesser shortcomings are easily forgiven or forgotten.
Run time: 109 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th August 2005
Box Office Worldwide: $92.4M
Production compaines: Four Brothers Films, Paramount Pictures, Di Bonaventura Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: John Singleton
Starring: Mark Wahlberg as Bobby Mercer, Tyrese Gibson as Angel Mercer, André Benjamin as Jeremiah Mercer, Garrett Hedlund as Jack Mercer, Terrence Howard as Lt. Green, Josh Charles as Det. Fowler, Sofía Vergara as Sofi, Fionnula Flanagan as Evelyn Mercer, Chiwetel Ejiofor as Victor Sweet, Taraji P. Henson as Camille Mercer, Barry Shabaka Henley as Councilman Douglas, Jernard Burks as Evan, Kenneth Welsh as Robert Bradford, Tony Nappo as Charlie, Victor A. Young as Father Lamont