A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the movie features relentless violence and harsh, action-hero language (repeated uses of "f--k" in jest and malice). The mother's murder is made visible on a convenience store video tape, with cuts to the brothers' horror and grief. Characters smoke cigarettes and marijuana, drink beer and liquor, play rough pickup hockey, and chase down culprits who wear ski masks or otherwise look menacing. The shootouts involve large, automatic weapons (lots of shots fired). One character falls out a window and breaks his leg (the injury is shown in close-up), others are shot to pieces, with very visible blood and mangling.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
When their adopted mother (Fionnula Flanagan) is killed, an accidental victim of apparent gang-related activity, her sons grow suspicious. Troublemaker Bobby (Mark Wahlberg); "pretty boy" Angel (Tyrese Gibson); family man Jeremiah (André Benjamin); and sensitive, pot-smoking wannabe rocker Jack (Garrett Hedlund) become intent on finding out the truth.
Is it any good?
FOUR BROTHERS is upfront about what it is: a rowdy, brutal revenge movie. The brothers' mission -- justice? revenge? havoc? -- leads to all kinds of mayhem, which a sympathetic Lt. Green (super smooth Terrence Howard) condones as "self-defense." Four Brothers practices the sort of chilling logic whereby the good guys' outrageousness looks "decent" compared to cruelty committed by the Head Villain, here Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor), the most depraved gangster this side of Jeffrey Wright's psycho killer in Shaft. This is how mean he is: when a fearful councilman (Barry Shabaka Henley) stops by Victor's home to report bad news, the host sends him to sit at the kids' table in the corner.
The shoot-outs are gargantuan, the car chases demented, and the snow storms actually rather arty. One car chase is especially ingenious, in its way, as it's not about the spectacular driving, but about blindness amid swirling snow. The brothers drive on, unable to stop. It's a useful metaphor for the film.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the film's mixed messages about violence: it's bad when "gangs" or thugs use it against citizens, but fine and even celebrated when deployed by the vengeful heroes. How do corrupt law and municipal officials, in league with the central villain, create a sense of pervasive dishonesty? How do women characters appear as stereotypical sexual or maternal figures? How does the film promote the brothers' bonding, at the expense of civil order or even hope for any justice aside from murdering the villains?
- In theaters: August 12, 2005
- On DVD or streaming: December 20, 2005
- Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Terrence Howard, Tyrese Gibson
- Director: John Singleton
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, pervasive language and some sexual content
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