John Singleton burst on to the scene in 1991 with the gritty urban drama Boyz N Tha Hood. While this excellent film brought him critical acclaim, I think it also brought some misconceptions about who he is as a filmmaker. While he certainly has an urban element to his films, he is not content to keep re-making urban films throughout his career. What made Boyz N The Hood so good was not the fact that it was an urban drama, but that it was a genuine story about the love that a parent has for a child.
Four Brothers brings this theme full circle. Again, we have a non-traditional urban family. Again, we are given access to the first good look at a rap artist with real acting chops in Andre Benjamin from Outkast. Instead of focusing around gangs, however, this is a film that explores just how far children will go for the mother that they so dearly love. When it comes to the love of a family, there are no good people and bad people, there are just families.
Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin and Garrett Hedlund play four foster brothers that come together after years apart to avenge the death of their mother, who was killed in a liquor store shooting. While they originally only came together to pay their respects, they soon realize that there is much more going on behind the scenes than it originally appears. Four Brothers is a film that sidesteps the traditional cliches and pitfalls that plague most films of this kind. This is an excellent film that has much more going on than it might appear from the previews.
When it comes to a UMD audio track, this is about as good as it gets. The first thing that I noticed was that this track actually has some volume behind it. So many of these discs have audio tracks that are mixed so low that it is hard to follow the dialog. This nagging problem was corrected on this disc, however, with a track that is not only powerful but nuanced. It is a breeze to understand the dialog here. What’s more, the dialog actually has some color to it. The sound of the voices accurately reflects the environments they are in. Echoes ring out in an abandoned warehouse. Words flatly resonate in a bar. Everything sounds just as it should, and the emotional impact of the film is increased as a result.
It is also nice to hear that the track has some movement to it. It is a pretty rare thing to have sound sources move on these UMD soundtracks, so this is a welcome change. A perfect example of this is the car wreck scene. As the car flips over and slides along the pavement, the audio perfectly slides across the headphones from right to left. These are the kinds of details that take this track from just another basic stereo track to something nuanced and special for a UMD.
While I certainly appreciate the fact that this film is presented in its original aspect ratio (as it should be), this cuts the small screen of the PSP down even more. It is certainly not too small to see everything clearly, but it does feel a bit claustrophobic. The color is also a bit dull. Having said that, the look of the film is supposed to be a bit on the dull side. The feel of the oppressive urban Detroit winter really comes across in the images. For once, dull colors are actually a good thing.
It is also nice to see that there are no problems with grain, blemishes or edge enhancement. While the picture is not as clean as it is on DVD, this is a perfectly respectable transfer for the PSP.
Yet again, here I am with all this space in the special features section, and nothing to write. No commentary, no trailers… nothing. I understand that space on UMDs is limited, but the studio should at least give the consumer a little background information in the booklet or something.
Of course, I would always recommend that viewers purchase the DVD of this film first, and pick up the UMD as a supplementary source. If you are going to pay the $15 for the UMD, you might as well pay the full $20 for the extras and the ability to watch the film on a big screen. However, what is included on this disc is of good quality, with the audio track being especially outstanding. This disc is no substitution for the real thing, but it is the perfect when you are on the road.