Four Brothers

on August 12, 2005 by Annlee Ellingson
Squandering the sex appeal and easy fraternity among its four leads, "Four Brothers" pitches violently between moments that are at once warm and raw -- one sibling expresses his genuine affection for another by calling him a fairy -- and scenes that are clich├ęd or, worse, saccharine. The result is a film that, in stark contrast to director John Singleton's other project currently in theatres (he produced Sundance audience fave "Hustle & Flow"), fulfills audience expectations but fails to surprise.

The oldest, a tough guy with a head too hot even for hockey, Bobby Mercer (Mark Wahlberg) has got guts exceeded only by his loyalty. Ladies' man Angel (Tyrese Gibson) takes a more calculated approach but is just as cold-blooded. The decent one of the bunch, Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin), stayed behind in Detroit, built a business and started a family. And, shielded by his brothers from getting his hands dirty, the youngest, Jack (Garrett Hedlund), plays in a rock band. Reunited at their adoptive mother's funeral, the brothers -- two black, two white -- through a little detective work determine that her death wasn't the result of a random convenience robbery but a targeted assassination. Their unsanctioned investigation into who killed her and why exposes an elaborate conspiracy that's never fully explicated yet seems to implicate the highest echelons of Motor City politics.

In a departure from the sunny locales of his previous films, Singleton ("Boyz n the Hood," "2 Fast 2 Furious") shot "Brothers" in the dead of winter. Snow-slick streets add peril to a car chase, and a curtain of flakes effectively lends to the confusion of a traumatic scene, but the way it's cut it's hard to tell sometimes what's happening in the action sequences. Moreover, just one among a culmination of plot twists manages to raise an eyebrow of mild interest. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin and Garrett Hedlund. Directed by John Singleton. Written by David Elliot and Paul Lovett. Produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura. A Paramount release. Action/Drama. Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language and some sexual content. Running time: 108 min

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