No Surrender Cinema: Four Brothers
Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Years. There’s a lot to celebrate this time of year, but today let’s take a brief TIME OUT (TM Zack Morris) to celebrate the One Year Anniversary of No Surrender Cinema! That’s right, it’s already been 12 months since I joined up with the Bulletproof Action crew, and in that time I’ve given you my take on a wide range of what Hollywood action has to offer. From cult classics like The Wraith, to the best Punisher in film and TV, to one of the worst things I’ve ever watched. I hope you’ve enjoyed what I’ve written, and I’m grateful that you’ve read. Here’s to bringing you much more to enjoy here at BulletproofAction.com in the years to come!
And now, on with the show!
Ever since I was younger, friends and family would joke about my affinity for urban culture. How does the preppy kid from the suburbs know so much about hip hop music? Why is he so smitten with shows like What’s Happening! and Good Times? It’s a trait that only grew over time as I could expose myself to a wider variety of offerings, and learn to appreciate pioneers of the culture in all forms of media. John Singleton is one of those individuals, and just in case you have no idea who he is, let me sum it up for you in four words; Boyz n the Hood. That legendary film is one of my all time favorites, and it’s the one that put Singleton on the map. Other offerings of his (Poetic Justice and Higher Learning, just to name a few) were also met with great acclaim, but a movie of his that doesn’t get mentioned all too often is the subject of No Surrender Cinema this month. Let’s take a trip to mid-00’s Detroit and meet up with Four Brothers.
The Mercer boys are back in town, and it’s not going to be pretty for the petty thugs that are driving the property values down in Detroit. The film opens up with Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan) getting gunned down in a convenience store robbery by two masked men. Her death sends shockwaves through the community, as Miss Evelyn was known to be a caring woman who fostered many children. Four of them were deemed too “broken” and left to rot in the system, but Evelyn adopted them and raised them as her own. Those four boys are our Four Brothers; Bobby (Mark Wahlberg) the oldest and most volatile brother, with a rap sheet to prove it. Angel (Tyrese Gibson) is a military man now, but still leans on his street smarts and is the playboy of the brothers. Jack (Garrett Hedlund) is the youngest and emotionally fragile brother (it’s implied in a touching scene where each brother reflects back on Evelyn that Jack was abused as a child before she took him in). Last but not least is Jeremiah (André Benjamin aka André 3000 from Outkast), who took care of Evelyn’s needs when the other brothers left town, and is now a stable and secure family man who wants nothing to do with their plans for revenge.
Singleton has assembled quite the ensemble cast for Four Brothers, because the core group is aided by appearances from Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Josh Charles, Sofia Vergara, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. While the women are relegated to fairly minor roles, the guys all get to shine. Howard is a detective that grew up with the Mercer family and is willing to help, but within legal means. Charles is his partner, who isn’t fond of these guys tearing up the town to find out why their mother was killed in cold blood. Ejiofor’s Victor Sweet, is nothing like what his name suggests. Sweet, as the movies main villain, is an evil man with venom oozing out of his pores in even his most low key moments. No matter what he’s saying or doing (typically something to berate or demean his henchmen) you hate him and wish that you were the fifth Mercer brother so that you could get your own shots in on him.
As far as action movies go, Four Brothers delivers not only in realism, but with emotion. As the brothers get closer to deciphering the who/what/why of their mothers killer, a violent shootout erupts that claims the life of one of them. It’s a scene that has you on the edge of your seat for the violence and then hits you in the gut with sadness. The car chase when Bobby, Angel, and Jack pursue the hired hands that took out Evelyn isn’t the slick, bombastic event that most Hollywood chases are. It’s Bobby’s Cutlass Supreme sliding through snow, losing control, skidding out as the brothers desperately try to catch up to the two gunmen. The movie also has a vintage feel thanks to the soundtrack (lots of 70’s soul playing here), the cars, and the grittiness of a crumbling Motor City. We even get an old school interrogation room scene where the cops get their licks in! There’s no fresh coat of paint here, and the lack of glamour only adds to its charm. There are times where I felt like this movie could easily be a late 70’s-80’s revenge flick. If anyone ever gets a working time machine I might have to go back and pitch this script to Cannon Films. Michael Dudikoff would make a fine Bobby Mercer.
Speaking of Bobby, Wahlberg did an amazing job in the role. The reason I liked it so much, and some may agree, is because Bobby Mercer feels like what a grown up Mark Wahlberg would be had he not gotten himself straight. Wahlberg’s delinquent history is well known news, and it makes me think that let him sink his teeth deeper into the role than other actors would have. I honestly think it’s one of his better roles as I’ve found him to be bland in some of the other action flicks he’s done. Gibson and Benjamin are fine, and Hedlund plays a great sympathetic babyface. The villains are also the type that you want to see get their due. There’s nothing corny about them. Sweet is a sociopath, one of the cops is dirty, and the “hired help” that took out Evelyn are total scumbags. Not one of them will be missed once the Mercers cut them down. There’s also a nice twist to the revenge plot at the movies climax, where Sweet realizes he’s in over his head and screwed with the wrong family.
I’m not going to turn into the Tony Schiavone of Bulletproof Action and claim that Singleton crafted another masterpiece to place on the same list as Boyz n the Hood, but what he’s got here is something that deserves credit beyond what it gets. Four Brothers is one of those movies that people either haven’t seen or seem to forget, and that’s a damn shame. Give it the chance it deserves, since it’s currently streaming on Netflix and readily available by other means. Four Brothers didn’t break any new ground, but it certainly covers everything you’ll want out of an enjoyable action movie.