When Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan) is gunned down during a Detroit store
robbery, everyone assumes it was a random shooting of a potential witness.
The loss is felt throughout the community but most of all by her four adopted
sons who would never have been brothers but for her fostering guidance in
their early years. Still, it's Detroit, and they are all street smart and
tough, each in their own way.
Bobby (Mark Wahlberg) is a hot head with reams of muscle and a leader among
leaders. Angel (Tyrese Gibson) is a ladies' man; Jeremiah (Andre' Benjamin)
is a business man and the one who stayed in the 'hood and looked after mom;
and Jack (Garrett Hedlund) is a struggling rocker with a guitar. Sadly, it
took a funeral of their beloved mom to bring these boys back together.
When they watch the footage from the security camera at the store where she
was killed, something doesn't add up right. Bobby observes that the killers,
who are masked, already had the money they came for, so why gun down a
little, old lady who couldn't identify them. He's seen enough robberies to
know that the next move should have been a quick flight out of there.
Suspicions grow into an investigation worthy of a police detective, only
those boys might have some dirt on them, as well, and Detective Fowler (Josh
Charles) and Lt. Green (Terrence Howard) aren't doing much to apprehend the
criminals. Satisfied now that this was a contract on their mother
specifically, the brothers themselves run the pursuit and seek the revenge.
Their toughness and street wiles are a match for the gang of psychopaths led
by brutal Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor). All roads seem to be leading to
there, with bodies and blood staining the asphalt.
Director John Singleton has put together a unique angle on the ghetto
gangster crime thriller in a style that resembles a film from a past era. It
bears more resemblance to his first film, "Boyz n the Hood" of 1991 than it
should 14 years later, and it doesn't advance the dramatic effects or
character depth much beyond his "Shaft" of 2000. Old timey, unprogressive
sensibilities for storytelling traps this team in a stylistic time warp.
While Singleton's comments about the film reveal that he was going for a
character piece, the ones he has assembled, and the writing of the parts by
David Elliot and Paul Lovett, fail to develop the kind of noble bond between
adoptive siblings that would reach some degree of inspiration. You can see
that the spirit was willing but just wasn't present. A nice way to meld the
ethnicities isn't enough.
~~ Jules Brenner