Four Brothers

Four Brothers. Di Bonaventura Pictures 2005.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not sure I’d even heard of this movie before I was invited to watch it. It’s definitely something outside my normal tastes, but I should occasionally broaden my intakes in directions I’m not as eager about as well, and crime drama still has the potential to excite.

After watching the movie:

In a suburb of Detroit, Evelyn Mercer is caught in the middle of a convenience store robbery and murdered. In her career as a Detroit foster care system social worker, there were only four children among her cases that Evelyn Mercer was never able to place into a permanent home, so she adopted them herself. So despite being vastly different in many ways, Bobby, Angel, Jeremiah, and Jack Mercer grew up as brothers and count Evelyn as their mother. Bobby the hothead got thrown out of professional hockey for being too violent, Jeremiah moved on from union organizing to real estate investment, Angel is a reformed con-man back from a tour with the Marines, and Jack, the baby of the family, is a loser wannabe rock star. Returning home for the funeral, Bobby tries to convince his brothers to go find and get the guys that killed their mother, not trusting the Detroit Police to care enough to handle it, but Jeremiah bows out. The leader of the small-time gang the police witness implicated proves to them the testimony was false, and hunting down the witness, they coerce the names of the shooters who paid him, chase them down, and execute them. Investigating in the dead killers’ homes, Bobby and Jack find that they were hitmen sent specifically to kill Evelyn, while Angel learns from a life insurance agent that Jeremiah is due a $400,000 payout on their mother’s policy once they clear up some questions about his real estate business folding after a deal got shut down by a councilman in the pocket of the most powerful gang leader in Detroit.

By far, the strongest thing about this movie is the chemistry between the brothers. They really come off as true siblings. I didn’t care for the other three constantly teasing Jack because they think he’s gay, but that feels very much like siblings in 2005. They all four love each other and want the best for each other, even though they’re constantly getting on each other’s nerves when they’re around each other. I did however feel like Bobby and Jack, the white brothers, were closer to each other than to the others. It’s probably a mix between an eldest looking after the youngest dynamic and a racial disconnect my own internal biases are partially bringing.

Evelyn is also extremely dear to them, and the movie not only makes it clear why in the very first scene (which has none of the brothers in it), but also each brother gets a moment imagining their mother talking to them. Despite dying almost immediately and appearing in no flashbacks I can recall, I think Evelyn has more screen time than Jeremiah’s wife and children, who function more as a plot device showing him having more responsibility and duty to stay on the straight and narrow than the other brothers than as actual characters. Which is probably a waste of Taraji P. Henson, but with a plot this complicated, the cast is so large a lot of actors get a bit underutilized, even among the brothers. There’s an interesting pivot in the plot where Jeremiah is mostly absent for what feels like half the movie, and then right about the time he rejoins, Jack leaves. Actually I guess Bobby is conspicuously absent for a good portion of the climax too.

There’s a lot of gunshots, but I can’t recall that much gore beyond blood. (Though there is a broken bone). They saved the budget for the high speed snowy car chase, and maybe the frozen lake scene, though they probably just actually shot that on a frozen lake or in a studio.

This is not my kind of movie, but it was engaging and enjoyable eventually. Very gritty, and without fantastical elements to draw interest. The character arcs aren’t as strong as they could’ve been, but the external plotting is successful, I think. It’s about, uh, family? Probably? And gunfights. Lots of gunfights.

One thought on “Four Brothers

  1. Valerie April 19, 2022 / 3:54 pm

    Ah, a story for a couple seasons or more, condensed to a movie.

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