Four Brothers is a rock solid ghetto version of The Sons Of Katie Elder. Both films are about sons trying to figure why their mother was killed and who's going to pay. Substitute John Wayne and The Old West with Mark Wahlberg and a bleak Detroit winter. Wahlberg is one of four men (two white and two black) that were adopted by a strict but loving woman, Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan). One night their mother witnesses a convenience store robbery and is killed. Is it a random violent act or is there a link between Evelyn and a Detroit mobster (Chiwetel Ejiofor)? The Mercer boys will stomp through Detroit's scariest neighborhoods to find out.
The chemistry between the brothers (Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, André Benjamin and Garrett Hedlund) is the main highlight of this film. Seeing them reunite during the funeral, at Thanksgiving and playing hockey before kicking down doors, gives us characters to connect with and root for. We even get some laugh out loud funny moments with the brothers that are better than the usual one-liners that plague action films.
All four put in solid performances, especially Wahlberg, whose recent action roles have been stoic and generic (Planet of the Apes, The Italian Job). The actor can show his range if the script is right and this is Wahlberg's best lead performance since Boogie Nights. Terence Howard completes his 2005 acting hat trick (Crash, Hustle and Flow) as a cop investigating the mother's killing.
Director John Singleton keeps the film moving and makes three tired action clichés (car chase, shoot out and fistfight) very satisfying. Between directing this film and producing the very good Hustle and Flow he will hopefully get his directing career back on track. It looked like Singleton was going to become a journeyman filmmaker after the fun but brainless 2 Fast 2 Furious. This is his most satisfying film since the underrated and under-appreciated Rosewood. And this is the best revenge film since Steven Soderbergh's The Limey. Bonus points for the old school '70s Motown soundtrack, especially selecting music from Marvin Gaye's score from the film Trouble Man.
Matthew Socey's film reviews can be heard on The Art Of The Matter (WFYI 90.1 FM), Abdul In The Morning (1430 AM WXNT) and Steve and Kelly (WTPI 107.9 FM).