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Four Brothers

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2005 1 Jan
Four Brothers
from Film Forum, 08/18/05

Four Brothers is a morality tale with a sobering lesson: Don't murder old ladies if they have vengeful, violent sons. When Evelyn Mercer is gunned down, the four boys she adopted and raised (played by Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, André Benjamin, and Garrett Hedlund) decide to settle the score in a hailstorm of bullets. Chiwetel Ejiofor of Dirty Pretty Things and the upcoming sci-fi adventure film Serenity co-stars as a brutal gangster.

Director John Singleton is no stranger to stories of gangsters and guns. He gave us Boys N the Hood, Poetic Justice, and Samuel Jackson's turn as Shaft. But reviews of this film are significantly less enthusiastic.

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) writes, "Despite believable performances and chemistry, the quartet is wholly unsympathetic (save for Benjamin) and their thuggish eye-for-an-eye tactics have little to do with true justice and undermine the story's emotional core."

Eric Rice (Crosswalk) says, "Four Brothers is meant to leave the audience with a sense of "justice wins" or a "brothers who stick together can do anything" uplifting sort of feeling when it is over. But instead, this particular reviewer (who really likes action films) walked away feeling only jangled and uncomfortable."

"What's missing … is the film's center," says Christopher Lyon (Plugged In). "These guys just don't seem as motivated to avenge their mom's death as they are to wreak havoc for the pure joy of violence. Her murder is the perfect excuse to start hitting and shooting people. I didn't buy that they felt the need to do it for her. They're just having too much fun. Even so, I'm left pondering this question: Is trying to incite audiences to gleeful vicarious revenge a good idea?"

"Four Brothers is cinematically and narratively well done," writes Cliff Vaughn (Ethics Daily), "and the car chase in the snow is particularly harrowing. But the near merriment it attaches to vengeful action is a tad—OK, a ton—too indulgent."

Mainstream critics say it rates as a decent "revenge thriller," but few of them feel strongly about the picture either one way or the other.