John Singleton scores with 'Four Brothers,' a violent revenge fantasy
It's a cartoonish vigilante movie with a strict, shoot-first-and-ask-questions-never policy.
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There's no way the all-over-the-place melodrama "Four Brothers" should work, but it does.
Goofy sits next to mournful sits next to violent in the movie, which pairs that elegant puzzle that's usually crafted by sedate English ladies -- the whodunit -- with messy, bust-a-cap-in-about-two-dozen-butts action.
It's about four foster brothers, two of whom are played by Andre Benjamin of OutKast and Mark Wahlberg, whose mom is shot in a holdup. The police investigation seems to consist of waiting around for someone to confess, so the bros decide to track down and kill whoever is responsible.
It's a vigilante movie and a cartoonish one at that, since the brothers have a strict, shoot-first-and-ask-questions-never policy. Virtually everyone is not only armed but willing to fire into crowded public places (the OK Corral didn't have this many public shoot-outs), but the ridiculousness of the setup isn't a problem because "Four Brothers" is always willing to laugh at itself and because the washed-out, "Superfly" color scheme suggests the movie isn't set in the real world -- where we frown on private arsenals of this size -- but in the brain of a vintage clothing-obsessed hipster.
"Four Brothers" has a jagged, muscular energy. Director John Singleton is a bit like an agile DJ who creates something exciting and illuminating out of pieces of old songs you already know. Eager to get to the good stuff, he hides the script's illogic by skipping past all the transitions that are supposed to connect scenes together. The result is a couple of moments that are as exciting as anything in the movies this year.
Speaking of exciting, "Four Brothers" is also a primo chance to catch up to an actor whose name you probably don't know: Chiwetel Ejiofor, whose performance as a sadistic thug is as explosive as a champagne cork popping. In his wildly different roles in "Dirty Pretty Things," "Love Actually" and "Melinda and Melinda," the Brit has shown he's capable of comedy, pathos and terror, and he gets to do all of those things in this raw and vibrant film.