[box cover]

Four Brothers

Dave Chappelle opined in Season Two of Comedy Central's "The Chappelle Show" that almost everything in life is cooler in slow motion. It could also be said that, in movies, everything is that much more awesome when scored to the Motown sounds of the '60s and '70s. When you have a song like Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" on the soundtrack, with its pulsating beat and opening scat, it sets a mood of cool that does all the heavy lifting. Which may be why John Singleton's Four Brothers (2005) is so palatable. The film stars Mark Wahlberg as Bobby Mercer, an ex-con who comes back to Detroit to find out who killed his adopted mother. He also has three adopted brothers, the ex-soldier Angel (Tyrese Gibson), the settled down Jeremiah (Andre 3000, né Andre Benjamin), and musician/youngest brother "Cracker" Jack (Garrett Hedlund), all of whom team up to investigate. The police, headed up by Lt. Green (Terrence Howard) and Det. Fowler (Josh Charles), suspect that it was a robbery gone bad, but the more clues the Mercers' dig up, the more it looks like it was an intentional homicide, and behind it all the evil crime boss Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Four Brothers is easily Singleton's best film since his debut Boyz N the Hood (1991), but mostly by default — there are some significant problems with the movie, first and foremost being that it cheats with logic to guarantee the viewer doesn't get ahead of it. For instance, the killers of mother Mercer act as if they don't know there's anyone else in the convenience store they're robbing, even though taking her out was the reason they went in the store in the first place. But most damning is the revenge arc — in the light of 9/11, numerous filmmakers have been tackling the subject of revenge, and few walk away without suggesting some sort of moral ambiguity. Alas, no such complexities are apparent here as cold-blooded murder and casual sadism is viewed as old-fashioned family entertainment, making this less the "urban western" the filmmakers suggest, and more a mid-'80s Death Wish knock-off. But with such great soundtrack hits as Gaye's "Trouble Man" and "Inner City Blues" and The Temptations' "Cloud Nine" and "Papa was a Rolling Stone," thinking about moral complexities isn't all that necessary, and with brainwaves set to low wattage, the violence and mayhem is engaging enough. Besides the music, the film coasts on Wahlberg's presence, the too-often-homophobic but sometimes funny back and forth between the brothers, Andre Benjamin's mellifluous voice, and Chiwetel Ejiofor's Victor Sweet. Singleton says that Ejiofor's performance was based on the roles Yaphett Kotto used to play in the '70s (think Harvard Blue in Truck Turner), and with his pimp strut, furry jackets, and bellows ("EAT DOG, EAT!") he makes for an engaging villain. Paramount presents Four Brothers in a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a commentary with John Singleton, the featurettes "The Look of Four Brothers" (10 min.) "Crafting Four Brothers" (11 min.) "Behind the Brotherhood" (9 min.), and "Mercer House Shootout" (4 min.). Nine deleted scenes (11 min.), the theatrical trailer, and bonus trailers round out the disc. Keep-case.

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