This film needs a shower. When things gets dirty you usually wash them, and Four Brothers truly needs a fine scrubbing. Not that some films don’t have that gritty look, a raw edge, dark and ominous feel, but those adjectives enhance a film or at least give it something concrete to grasp. Here the film is just plain dirty and it’s not about atmosphere, style or story. It’s the kind of dirty that can’t be cleaned, like a worn out sock that just shouldn’t be used to matter how many times it gets tossed in the washing machine.
When the sweet adoptive mother of four less than model citizens is murdered during a convenience store hold-up, the four Mercer brothers – confrontational Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), ladies’ man Angel (Tyrese Gibson), family man and businessman Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin), and wanna be rocker Jack (Garrett Hedlund) – reunite, and it’s not long before they take matters into their own hands. It’s not as though they scheme during the funeral, but waiting for them to start knocking heads and initiating the body count seems the most painful. Like much of the film, the boys don’t plan things so much as they happen. Like a knee-jerk reaction, little thought goes into the character’s actions or the film itself. The boys climb the continuously growing pile of corpses before they reach pinnacle and can’t (or don’t have to) kill any more.
A long time ago, director John Singleton (Shaft, 2 Fast 2 Furious) took audiences on a meaningful trip with Boyz N the Hood. He had his finger on the pulse of the urban jungle. Although not perfect, the film contained harsh situations, insight, and brutal reality but also characters of substance who actually learned. Here we have what amounts to a Charles Bronson revenge film. But it's even dirtier. The setting: Detroit. The tourism people will have a hard time encouraging people to visit the Motor City after seeing this film. Law enforcement with not only dirty cops but incompetent ones as well. What’s a film without a city council member entangled in some crooked politics and shady business dealings? Add to that, Singleton and his scribes chalk the film full of degrading, dehumanizing, and yes, dirty scenes. Film always has an open door for urban reality but when the four protagonists learn nothing from their experience and only leave a trail of bullet holes, blood and body bags, then that door should be closed.
Although the film contained sufficient product placement for large SUVs, some garbage bag maker would have been the opportune choice. Not that they used garbage bags to hold the numerous corpses that littered the fair city of Detroit, but at least they could have been used to clean up this filthy film.
To think about cleaning this film up would be discouraging because it doesn’t have much to begin with. It’s like hiring a cleaning lady to beautify a toxic waste dump. It’s a shame, but director Singleton seems to have taken his finger off the pulse and moved it on to the trigger.
Do you think you would have liked it better if the characters had been wearing cowboy hats? Singleton said he wanted to make a modern western with Four Brothers, but I'd say, judging by the raiding of his old record collection on the soundtrack, that he's made a modern blaxploitation movie and on that level it wasn't too bad. Not too great, either, but not too bad.