Four Brothers starts off as a solid drama about a group of orphans (Marky Mark, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin, and Garrett Hedlund) who were raised by a sympathetic woman (Fionnula Flanigan) in downtown Detroit. When she is murdered, the brothers reunite and stay in their mother’s old house. They sit at the dinner table and stare at her now empty seat. They horse around with one another in her living room. And in some cases they even wear her old clothes. In scenes like these, the actors do a good job of makin… their characters feel real — a rare feat in movies these days. Then the action starts. And that’s where Four Brothers goes downhill.
What starts as a serious toned film about coming together to bury a loved one, Four Brothers transforms into an unintentionally funny action movie. The characters don’t just shoot at one another, they make corny quips while doing it. Marky Mark, yeah I know he’s Mark Wahlberg and all, but after this performance, he’s Marky Mark again. He’s lost the right to be taken seriously. Anyway, Marky Mark actually says the line, “Grab the gun and bust some shots” to Tyrese Gibson while chasing some bad guys down a street. I don’t know… the line might sound perfectly normal to some people. I guess they are the intended audience for this film. But it made me laugh. Many lines like that one made me laugh.
No, I don’t expect action movies to be free of corny lines like this, but when a film starts out promising — showing us characters in intimate situations – and then shows them making John McClane-esque wisecracks in the middle of a shootout, I kinda lose my cool.
So does Four Brothers work? Yeah, I guess. The actors achieve some good chemistry throughout the film. And surprisingly, the film is pretty funny. But I didn’t want much comedy or action in a film like this – at least not the kind of comedy or action that was given to us. I expected, and wanted, Four Brothers to have more of a Boyz N The Hood feel to it than a 2 Fast 2 Furious feel. In my opinion, John Singleton needs to get back to what put him where he is today. He’s a director in Hollywood because he had something profound to say in films like Boyz N The Hood, Higher Learning, and Baby Boy. Not because he can film a car chase with ease.
However, Four Brothers is a good old brainless time. Like I said, it does make you laugh, and there are some tense shootouts, but like I also said, I didn’t want this from the film. I wanted drama, good acting, and emotional payoffs. If I knew Four Brothers was going to be loud and dumb from the start, I may have enjoyed it more. Cripes, I gave Stealth a good review. But I was duped when it comes to this film. The filmmakers made me think I was getting one thing and then they gave me something completely different. If this were the business world, I could sue. But hearing Marky Mark ham it up and bark out orders like “Give me my property” to a police officer makes me forget about all the bad times we had together. Plus the bad guys are venomous and we enjoy seeing them get their comeuppance. So there are some joys to be had in Four Brothers, but they are cheap and mostly silly.
Four Brothers is a film that has a hard time keeping a straight face. At times it wants to be a moving drama and other times it wants to be a standard revenge action flick. What makes Four Brothers work above all else is the cast and the chemistry between them. Like the film itself, my thoughts on it are mixed. My advice is this – just go in expecting equal parts The Punisher, Shaft and 2 Fast 2 Furious and you’ll save yourself the hassle of higher expectations.
Four Brothers is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture is tinted gray to give Detroit the realistic look it’s known and loved for, but it looks great. The picture I mean, not Detroit, silly. Colors are rich and vibrant and there are no visible flaws to speak of – except Marky Mark’s facial hair. Four Brothers may be a dumb movie, but it’s a good looking dumb movie.
Four Brothers comes with a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 track. Gun shots are deep and booming and the sound during car chases is separated well. There are some good unsuspected jolts of sound that will make you jump in your seat. Watch Four Brothers loud, and you’ll know what I mean. While the film is not chock full of action, what is shown on screen is presented nicely through the disc’s audio track.
- Commentary by Director John Singleton – Singleton gives a decent commentary, mostly snippets of information behind each scene in the film. He also discusses the themes and tones used throughout the film. Most importantly, Singleton doesn’t pretend that Four Brothers is something it’s not. At one time he mentions that the film is more of a Saturday matinee kind of film where the audience can cheer when the good guys get their revenge.
- Look of Four Brothers – filmmakers discuss the art direction and costume design for each of the four brothers and how to make them all look different on screen.
- Crafting Four Brothers – the writers discuss creating each character and how they went about making them feel real.
- Behind the Brotherhood – shows the viewer how the cast members got along, and it looks like they did.
- Mercer House Shootout – featurette about the film’s biggest action sequence.
- Deleted Scenes – 9 scenes that were removed from the film to shorten running time and advance story.
- Theatrical Trailer
Four Brothers is a fun time as long as you dial down your expectations. I personally came to appreciate the film even more while watching the special features – seeing how much detail and thought went into what I thought was once a dumb action film. While it may not know what kind of film it wants to be at time, I do recommend it. The disc’s A/V is solid and the extra features are informative and interesting. Now if we can just do something about Marky Mark’s facial hair…
Special Features List
- Commentary by Director John Singleton
- The Look of Four Brothers
- Crafting Four Brothers
- Behind the Brotherhood
- Mercer House Shootout
- Deleted Scenes