3 out of 10
Yo Ma Man, It's Blaxploitation Time
When Wahlberg walks on, you know you're in for another rubbish rehash from the master of the remake. Hammy and melodramatic with over-the-top violence substituting for real action, "Four Brothers" is cheap and corny with enough shooting to put "Scarface" to shame.
Violence and gangsterism has long been the staple of action movies, as is taking vengence in the name of ones mother. Taking inspiration from John Wayne's epic gun slinging western "The Sons of Katie Elder," the plot centres around four brothers - Bobby (Mark Wahlburg), Angel (rapper and model Tyrese Gibson), Jeremiah (Outkast's Andre "3000" Benjamin) and the youngest Jack (Garrett Hedlund). Like the biblical four horseman of the apocalypse, they seek to wreak retribution following the murder of their foster mother, tough Irish community do-gooder and all-around nice lady Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan), during a convenience store robbery. Sadly, with the disappearance of the sole interesting actor and scene with a coherent storyline within the first 5 minutes, it will have you wanting revenge too.
In what seems to be an open and shut case, their Ma's murder is deemed one of hapless bad luck. Suspicious of the circumstances surrounding her death, her sons, armed with gasoline and matches, interrogate and throw young local Detroit hoodlums out of windows and manage to trace her killers to a local crime boss. True to tinsletown tradition, even in a black Detroit gangster film, the villain turns out to be an Englishman - Victor Sweet - played by award-winning actor Chiwetel Ejiofor ("Amistad," "Twelfth Night," "Dirty Pretty Things," "Greenwich Mean Time" and "Love Actually") from Forest Gate in London.
With a script so weak, it's shocking that any of the actors make it through without completely exploding with laughter (in one case one failed entirely). It is tacky, almost 70's style blaxploitation with a depressing plot filled with inane situations and an all-pervasive gloom of lousy lighting and presence of frivolous characters. Among the more irritating is Sophi, played by veteran of Spanish television, Sophia Vergara. Even she had difficulty taking this crazy girlfriend seriously and commented on one event in the kitchen:
Outside of a few laughs and some interesting chase scenes, the screenplay by nearly first-time writers David Elliot and Paul Lovett is drab, cliché and worn, with stale stereotypes, boring stake outs, convenient coincidences and tedious moments memorializing at mom's house. It's one of those pictures where during several moments you wonder why they wasted the celluloid. A few pardonable scenes include a somewhat less irksome plot twist involving one of the cities police detectives (Josh Charles, better known for "Dead Poet's Society"), a passibly clever ending and a priceless shot when Detroit's councilman Douglas (Barry Henley) is forced to sit at the kids table, where clearly director Singleton should be sent. This one is otherwise bound for the can.
Having succumbed to producing pictures which one would think he would rebuke for condoning violence after sending such strong messages in previous efforts, Singleton has created the opposite here from "Boyz in the Hood." With clever monents and plot twists that deserved to be in a better movie, it could almost be one to look forward to... if the story had been taken more seriously, if ma's house was less depressing or if there had been fewer cowboy style shoot outs. Instead it's a wannabe urban cowboy action flick in a wannabe-Detroit snowy Toronto by Canada's wannabe Hollywood crowd.
Film Critic: Jennifer M Lillies