A Wintery revenge drama, "Four Brothers" is the latest from director John Singleton ("Higher Learning"). The picture revolves around four formerly "lost cause" foster children who were taken in by a caring woman (Fionnula Flanagan) and raised as best as she could manage. Early in the film, she is killed in a convenience store, leading to a tearful reunion of the four children, now grown up (Mark Wahlberg, Garrett Hedlund, Tyrese Gibson and Andre Benjamin, who all have good chemistry with each other.)
When the four return, they decide to investigate the crime themselves and seek justice, eventually finding that a local gangster (Chiwetel Ejiofor, excellent in "Serenity") is behind the crime. So, not to give anything else away, the four go about seeking payback. The film isn't exactly deep in terms of plot or character, but there's a look to it that elevates it to at least a solid action flick. Beautifully shot by Peter Menzies Jr. ("The Great Raid", "Tomb Raider"), the snowy urban setting not only feels chilly, but gritty and desolate, which adds an underlying tension to the whole enterprise. There's an almost eerie scene towards the end of the film that takes place on a frozen, snow covered lake that seems to extend for miles in every direction.
The performances separately are nothing outstanding, although together they add up to something more. Whalberg isn't trying anything new here, but his effort works fine. Benjamin (of the group Outkast, who was also in "Be Cool") is surprisingly good for someone with very little acting experience. Hedlund and Gibson are acceptable, but their roles are fairly thin. Despite also being stuck with rather small roles, Terrence Howard and Josh Charles are also good as a pair of cops.
As an old-school action film, "Four Brothers" works fairly well. It doesn't exactly follow logic throughout (although to a degree that doesn't require too much suspension of belief, at least for something like this) and some of the plot "twists" are pretty obvious, but it still remains suspenseful, with a few moderately good action sequences.
VIDEO: "Four Brothers" is presented by Paramount in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality is not flawless, but the effort is still first-rate, as the picture still looks great anyways. Sharpness and detail are marvelous, as the film looked consistently crystal clear, with good small object detail usually visible.
The only issue that brought the presentation down a notch was the presence of some minor edge enhancement in a handful of scenes. While noticable, I didn't find the issue particularly distracting. No pixelation, print flaws or other concerns were spotted. Colors are intentionally desaturated, but warmer tones occasionally come through. No matter whether cold or warm, colors looked accurately presented. Flesh tones also looked natural.
SOUND: "Four Brothers" is presented by Paramount in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film's action sequences put the surrounds to use to deliver some sound effects, but even in the more subdued sequences, the rear speakers brought in some effective ambience. Audio quality was first-rate, as effects sounded dynamic and well-recorded, while dialogue was clear and easily understood.
EXTRAS: Commentary from writer/director John Singleton, as well as a series of featurettes: "The Look of Four Brothers" (cinematography and costume design), "Crafting the Four Brothers" (general production), "Behind the Brotherhood" (casting, as well as establishing chemistry between the leads) and "Mercer House Shootout" ("making of" for the scene). We also get 9 deleted scenes, the trailer and promos for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts: While certainly not without some issues, "Four Brothers" worked mostly well as a gritty action/drama. Paramount's DVD edition provides solid audio/video quality, as well as a fine selection of supplements. Those who haven't seen the film should try it as a rental first, but fans may want to seek out a purchase.