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Originally published Friday, August 12, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Movie review

"Four Brothers": A bond thicker than blood

For a movie that's all over the map, "Four Brothers" is surprisingly grounded in spite of its sometimes-schizophrenic scenario. The map is confined...

Special to The Seattle Times

For a movie that's all over the map, "Four Brothers" is surprisingly grounded in spite of its sometimes-schizophrenic scenario. The map is confined to a bleak winter in the decaying environs of urban Detroit, and it charts an unusual mix of genre and stylistic flourish that keeps the story crackling — up to point.

In other hands, this violent and remorseless revenge drama could have been much poorer in the details. It's not director John Singleton's best effort, but the distinctly inventive visual daring and nuance of character he crafts lift it above the lackluster to a considerable degree.

As Bobby, one of the titular siblings and unofficial leader of the notorious Mercer brothers, Mark Wahlberg is only slightly ahead of his co-stars for the raw feeling he exudes. He and his brothers Angel (rapper Tyrese Gibson), Jeremiah (rapper André Benjamin of Outkast) and Jack (nonrapper Garrett Hedlund) are the interracial adopted brood of Evelyn Mercer, who was murdered during a corner-store holdup in what at first appears to be simply a wrong-place, wrong-time tragedy.

Movie review 2.5 stars

Showtimes and trailer

"Four Brothers" with Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, André Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund, Terrence Howard. Directed by John Singleton, from a screenplay by David Elliot and Paul Lovett. 110 minutes. Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language and some sexual content. Several theaters.

Evelyn was beloved as a neighborhood saving grace for giving foster care to delinquent kids nobody wanted. Four of them were seemingly so far gone, she adopted them herself, and though she may not have gotten them completely on the straight and narrow, she did inspire a love and loyalty they had never known. Now they're gathered to lay Mom to rest.

Bobby, the still criminally minded and most disreputable Mercer boy — according to a cop who came up with him through childhood (Terrence Howard in another terrific performance that's gaining him a big name fast) — starts to suspect something not quite right about the randomness of his mom's death. The four brothers' digging starts them suspecting a hired hit with the holdup as just a credible cover. Sure enough, a business deal that turned south was the spark that induced a chain of gangland, crooked cops and corrupt politicians to become involved in a rather far-fetched criminal plot. And it doesn't end with Evelyn's death.

Some of the convoluted criminal goings-on give the script its schizo and often implausible variety of holes. There's a weird mix of comic banter between the brothers and between the other criminals that clashes violently with the brutality on display by most everyone. The body count is high, and all of the slaughter is carried out with impunity, except for those whose punishment is death.

But Singleton handles the clashing moods with great gusto. An extreme shootout in broad daylight on a working-class street is thrilling, and a nighttime car chase shot through a blinding snowstorm is similarly exhilarating for its tension and tight editing.

Don't look to "Four Brothers" for any lessons in morality, just let the pacing and upscale style of an ordinary crime thriller do its engagingly depraved work.

Ted Fry:

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