Saturday, August 20, 2005

A View At the Movies: Four Brothers

Yesterday I saw Four Brothers, John Singleton's latest directorial effort. The story centers around four foster kids who were taken in by a woman who raised them as though they were her own kids. She is murdered in a robbery at a local ocnvenience store. The four brothers decide to investigate and avenge her death. Two of the foster children, Jerry and Angel, are African-American. Jerry is played by Andre Benjamin, who is better known as Andre 3000, one-half of Southern rap duo Outkast. Angel is played by actor/singer Tyrese Gibson, who was also in John Singleton's films Baby Boy and 2 Fast 2 Furious. Jerry is a former Union leader who is trying to start his own business. His wife is portrayed by Taraji P. Henson, who was in the Singleton-produced Hustle and Flow. Angel was in the military and is trying to get reacqauinted with his old girlfriend, played by Sofia Vergara. The Caucasian "brothers" are Mark Wahlberg, who is an ex-hockey player with agression issues, and Garret Hedlund, who plays Jack. Jack is a wannabe rocker and the youngest of the brothers. As the youngest, he is teased constantly.

The brothers decide to investigate, despite the objections of a cop and friend of the family, played by Hustle and Flow's Terrence Howard. Their investigations suggest that their "mom"'s death may have been planned. They also discover a trail of corrupt politics, dirty cops, and dirty money which leads to a confrontation with the ringleader of the whole operation. The brothers' constant bickering and camaraderie suggests a genuine chemistry between the four actors. I found myself ignoring their racial and peripheral differences due to their on-screen interactions.
Another touching moment is their first meal after her death. All the brothers have their own memories of their mom. Without giving anything away, let's just say the brothers work through thier grief in a very unique way. I also enjoyed the music. The music seemed to be its own character. It seems as though John Singelton was inspired by the Detroit setting. The Motown Sound is prominently displayed in his music choices. My favorite song was Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man, which is used in the opening and closing sequences. Other Motown songs in the film include Marvin Gaye's Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler), and the Temptations' Cloud Nine and Papa Was A Rolling Stone. As a music geek, I loved this. It really added to the scene and conveyed the character's emotions during those periods in the film.

In closing, Four Brothers is good, but not great. It's a little tough to suspend disbelief at some of the vigilante actions that the brothers commit without having to atone for their actions. Also, Andre Benjamin is still a little green in terms of acting. While I felt he shined in Be Cool, in this film I felt that he was a bit of a weak link. He wasn't horrible, but clearly new to dramatic acting. I also felt that the beautiful Taraji P. Henson could have benefited from more screen time. Taraji makes scenes come to life when she's in them. Sofia Vergara was very memorable as Tyrese's girlfriend. Tyrese Gibson is slowly building a credible acting career. Not bad for a guy whose career began as the boy singing on the bus in Coke commercials. Mark Wahlberg continues his string of charismatic, solid performances. Not bad for a guy who was a rapper known for wearing Calvin Klein boxers. Garrett Hedlund shows promise as the younger brother Jack. Singleton has delivered another solid feature. Four Brothers is not the most innovative film, but it is a solid, entertaining story, which seems to be a rarity in Hollywood these days. I give Four Brothers 3.5 stars.


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