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Four Brothers (5/10)

by Tony Medley

An unremarkable remake of John Wayne’s “The Sons of Katie Elder” (1965), when a beloved community activist gets killed in what appears to be a random robbery of a convenience store, her four adoptive sons, Bobby Mercer (Mark Wahlberg), Angel (Tyrese Gibson), Jeremiah (André Benjamin), and Jack (Garrett Hedlund) think otherwise, and decide to wreak revenge. Naturally there’s a corrupt cop, who’s white, and a good cop, Lt. Green (Terrence Howard), who’s black. And, naturally, there’s a real bad guy, Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor, who played in two films I didn’t like, 2004’s “Love Actually”, and the even worse, “Melinda and Melinda” earlier this year,” but was terrific in 2004 in the little seen “Dirty Pretty Things”). Victor is little more than a cartoon character, forcing people he doesn’t like to eat off the floor. Too bad Director John Singleton didn’t trust Ejiofor’s talent enough to allow him to create a hateful character through his acting instead of opting for cheap tricks like that. As to the star, Mark Wahlberg’s a good actor, but he’s a journeyman, certainly no John Wayne. In fact, what this film needs is the charisma of a John Wayne.

Apparently intended to be a message of interracial bonding among the four brothers (two are black, two are white), it’s really just another Charles Bronson-type picture of revenge, much darker than “Elder.” Maybe it’s worth seeing to view the ending, which defines banal. Talk about predictable, only-in-Hollywood contrivances, the ending raises a myriad of unanswered questions, like, how could the dénouement have been put together? Obviously logic wasn’t something that concerned Singleton.

There are lots of bullets fired at the brothers. They should have some standard stock footage they can use for these stories, like the bad guys using automatic rifles, shooting hundreds of rounds a second but they always stop for a couple of seconds so the good guys can pop up and fire a shot out a window. After the shot, the bad guys open up again with their automatic rifles. These scenes are straight out of the Hollywood Style Book, which explains how bad guys can have guns that can shoot through brick walls, but can’t hit the guys hiding behind the brick walls. If a bullet can penetrate a wall, it can hit someone hiding behind same wall. But in Hollywood they never do. I’d like Singleton to explain that, but I’d like to see Babe Ruth play baseball, too.

 August 11, 2005