The Sons of Evelyn Mercer
A While back I watched an old John Wayne western called "The Sons of Katie Elder" a movie about 4 brothers who return to their homestead to bury their mother and seek revenge for a handful of wrong doings. It was thoroughly enjoyable, but the whole time I had a nagging feeling that I recognized the storyline from a much more recent movie and then it hit me. John Singleton's "Four Brothers" starring Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, AndrÃ© Benjamin and Garrett Hedlund uses a similar plot line but in a more contemporary situation and does a brilliant job of making a movie which could easily be a western if it was not situated in modern day Detroit. From having four rough brothers returning back to town, the beloved mother and plenty of shoot outs as well as chases, everything about "Four Brothers" reminded me of a really good old fashioned western just modernized.
When their adopted mother, Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan - Transamerica), is murdered in a grocery store robbery, four brothers return to the rough Detroit neighbourhood to bury her, but also to seek vengeance for her death. Turning the neighbourhood upside down in search of the killers, they soon discover things are not all they seem.
Having said that "Four Brothers" reminded my of "The Sons of Katie Elder" it would be hypocritical of me to say that the story was in any way original, heck I reckon there must be hundreds if not thousands of movies which use a similar plot line to drive the entertainment forwards. But what "Four Brothers" manages to achieve where others fail, is to make the whole thing feel fresh and exciting with a perfect balance of action, emotion, humour and a storyline which throws you around a bit, keeping you guessing, before setting you down on a path to what is in all reality a predictable action packed outcome. But don't let the thought of any predictability put you off, as along the way "Four Brothers" has enough clout about it to keep you engaged in what is going on and locks you in as it toys with your emotions. Even the outcome has enough tension that you forget that it is what you guessed and you are actually waiting for a sudden twist and when it doesn't arrive you are not in any way disappointed, if anything you are completely satisfied as the movie has ended just at the right time, with the right ending.
Where "Four Brothers" really holds it own is in the balance between the different elements, be it plot, action, humour or acting. Through out the entire movie the main emphasis is always on the plot and for its 104 minutes I can say that not once did it feel like it was becoming boring or it was dragging its feet. This is down to some really decent action sequences but also a few moments of humour which stops it from feeling overly heavy and also monotonous. Something I usually find disappointing in modern movies is, what is in my opinion, the need to make the action sequences bigger, better and more totally unbelievable than the last movie in the same genre. Thankfully the action scenes in "Four Brothers" are not only exhilarating and explosive but they are for the most believable, stopping just short of being too over the top and laughable.
Talking of laughable, but in a good way, the movie is spackled with moments of humour which never for a minute feel contrived. Watching the brothers taking the Michael out of each other, after years of being apart, gives the movie a really warm, fun feeling but without spoiling the overall intensity of the story.
Another bug bear I have with many modern movies is that they are often just a vehicle to showcase the lead actors somewhat dubious ability to perform in front of the camera. Thankfully "Four Brothers" definitely does not fit this case, yes it has "Marky" Mark Wahlberg as Bobby Mercer, who is pretty much the linchpin to the entire movie, but the performances from the other brothers Tyrese Gibson as Angel, AndrÃ© Benjamin as Jeremiah and Garrett Hedlund as Jack are as convincing, powerful and engaging as that of Wahlberg. But the good performances do not stop with just the brothers and with a cast which includes Fionnula Flanagan, Josh Charles, Terrence Howard and also Chiwetel Ejiofor, who surprisingly takes on a nasty role you are spoilt with choice when it comes to the quality of the performances.
It is not just the performances that sell "Four Brothers" for me; it is the well defined characters which add to the overall enjoyment. From Bobby Mercer who takes on the role of leader, through to Jack who seems highly emotional and not completely at ease with the roughness of revenge, each character is unique and helps you in one way or another to connect with them.
What all this boils down to is that if you wanted to get critical and over analyse "Four Brothers", you could probably pick holes in both the plot and performances. But then for once I didn't notice the holes or any dodgy performances as the overall factor is that "Four Brothers" is a very entertaining movie which captures your attention from the moment it starts and doesn't let go until after the credits have rolled. What in anyone else's hands other than director John Singletons, "Four Brothers" would have turned into just another average action flick, but instead we have a movie which delivers plot, emotion, entertainment, action and excitement in perfect measures throughout, a surprisingly pleasurable watch.