Thursday, October 20, 2005

FOUR BROTHERS: A modern-day western

(action thriller)
GSC and TGV circuits
Time: 142 mins
Rating: * * ½

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JOHN Singleton’s Four Brothers could have been inspired by the 1965 western, The Sons Of Katie Elder. In that movie, four brothers (two were played by John Wayne and Dean Martin) return to their hometown of Clearwater, Texas, after the deaths of their parents, and embark on a trail of vengeance.

Singleton’s urban western has a lot more action and firepower but a preposterous ending.
The movie opens with a kind old lady named Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan) chiding a young boy for shoplifting candy at a neighbourhood store in Detroit.

After the boy has left the store, two masked robbers walk in and the old lady is shot dead.
At the funeral, we learn that Evelyn has four adopted sons, two white and two black. She had been a foster mother all her life and these four were the ones she could not find homes for.

Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), the eldest, is a hot-head who has just been released from prison; Angel (Tyrese Gibson) is a former Marine who is eager to be united with his old flame (Sofia Vergara); Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin) is married and has a real estate business, and Jack (Garrett Hedlund) is a punk rocker.

Reunited in the house where they all grew up in, the four recollect fond memories and shed tears of grief for their beloved. Then, at the Thanksgiving dinner, someone talks of revenge — and the ‘street justice’ plot kicks in. Bobby learns that their mom was not killed because she was at the wrong place at the wrong time. She was the target of an execution!

With this ‘excuse’, the brothers take the law into their own hands, disrupting a basketball game by running into the court with guns, dousing a car with petrol and threatening to barbecue the local councilman, and getting entangled with the local mob led by the sadistic Victor Sweet (Chiweetel Ejiofor).

While it is difficult to root for ‘heroes’ who behave like hoodlums, the scripters David Elliot and Paul Lovett have seen to it that the bad guys are worse and we would applaud their downfall.
Director Singleton even recreates that cheesy Seventies cop-movie feel with tacky canned music and awkward cuts.

However, one of the pleasures of Four Brothers is watching the way these guys bond as ‘siblings’. There are the usual banter and rivalry — and even a tinge of betrayal.
And their characters are developed well enough to anchor the situation in reality mode even if the murder-mystery turns out to be rather ridiculous.

Singleton made his directing debut at age 23 in 1991 with the acclaimed Boyz N The Hood. After that his works had been uneven, especially with the commercial features like the Shaft remake and 2 Fast 2 Furious sequel. Here, he is showing signs that he is returning to his roots...


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