Note: This review was contributed by Deidre Woollard, editor of Weblogs, Inc. sister site, Luxist.
This is the second movie I have seen this summer that has a 1970s theme (the first was The Devil's Rejects). The screenwriters said that they imagined Four Brothers as an urban Western. It definitely has the feel of Clint Eastwood spaghetti Westerns; it's also reminiscent of the John Wayne movie, The Sons of Katie Elder, with just a touch of Shaft courtesy of a Motown-inspired soundtrack.
When Detroit do-gooder Evelyn Mercer is gunned down in a convenience store robbery, her four adopted sons come home to bury their mother and bang some heads. The four brothers are a multiracial group including Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), Angel (Tyrese Gibson), Jack (Garrett Hedlund), and Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin). We learn about the four boys as a local policeman (Terence Howard) narrates their backstories. The four are the most degenerate boys that Evelyn Mercer ever worked with, and because she couldn't place them in foster homes, she adopted them. The movie opens with a lot of very heartfelt grief and teasing/bonding between the boys. Then it's time for the ass-kicking to begin.
This movie is a character piece, but even more so, it is an against-the-odds, hang-em-high action flick. The brothers dole out the violence with no thought to the consequences or the memory of their mother. They routinely threaten anyone remotely related to the crime as they chase down a conspiracy that seems to get bigger the more they dig. The main antagonist in this film is an urban gangster named Victor Sweet. The character doesn't get a lot of screen time, so the writers rely on some pretty stereotypical tricks to turn him into Stock Bad Guy A. Nothing too innovative here, and plot twists announce themselves long before they happen.
Despite the massive amounts of often needless violence and a bit of unbelievability (wouldn't these guys get arrested after the first time they started injuring people and damaging property?), this movie is quite enjoyable. The wintery urban action scenes are well done and reminded me how satisfying a good car chase can be without a lot of computer graphics and explosions. The four brothers are completely endearing despite their rough edges. Mark Wahlberg is definitely the anchor of the group and while his character doesn't have a great deal of depth, Wahlberg makes his urgency seem very real. Andre Benjamin is a total delight as an actor. He hasn't had a lot of experience but his ability to convey conflicted emotion with little words is very nicely done. The other two brothers, Tyrese Gibson and Garrett Hedlund are less powerful but still interesting to watch.
All in all, it's an entertaining shoot-em-up, a nice homage to movies from the days before massive CGI special effects. The screening audience I saw it with cheered at all the right moments, and the intense pace of the movie will keep you glued to your seat.