Director John Singleton’s (Boyz N The Hood, Shaft) new film Four Brothers (2005) tells the tale of four brothers seeking to find their mother’s killers. These four led by the oldest brother, Bobby Mercer (Mark Wahlberg), take justice into their own hands when there is nowhere to turn to for help. Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan, The Others) has helped find foster homes for juveniles for decades, and for the “ four delinquents so far gone she couldn’t find anyone to take them in,” she adopted them herself. Angel (Tyrese Gibson), Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin) and Jack (Garrett Hedlund, Troy, Friday Night Lights) are the other “degenerates” who, although are not society’s best, turn out better under Evelyn’s care and love.
The four brothers come back to Detroit to bury their mother and find peace for their deceased mother and themselves. What looks like a typical revenge drama surprisingly includes a close look at the relationship between these four men who were brought together by a loving woman. These men are very different people, but they share the commonality of a troubled childhood and seemingly lost soul if not for Evelyn’s saving grace.
Four Brothers is an allegory to facing society’s troubles. Crime exists everywhere. But the problem is tackled differently with no concrete solution. Four Brothers suggests that crime should be hit head on at its source. Passivity is not an option.
Most societies are controlled by capitalism – not the government, but money. There is always someone who controls the money – who gets it, who takes it, who earns it. The man who controls Detroit is Victor Sweet. Victor is the typical underworld boss who pays off the government and police to maintain his power over Detroit’s citizens.
Despite many objections by their friends and even each other, the four brothers embark on their quest for justice. Their enemies use guns, and these four brothers don’t hesitate to use guns themselves. Fight fire with fire. It’s the only way to deal with corruption, fear and violence. Violence doesn’t end with the satisfaction of stopping a few hoodlums and criminals. Violence ends with the entire crime organization destroyed.
While watching Four Brothers, I noticed connection to the U.S. war on terrorism. Although there is no realistic quick end to the war, not finishing what the U.S. started would be dangerous. Stopping would be a sign of weakness. Crime syndicates work the same way that terrorist groups work – they use fear to create anxiety, isolation and panic. Since the world is really an isolated place, individuals don’t group together to fight the common enemy because everyone looks out for themselves. But appeasement will only work for so long. What is living if it is in constant fear?
The U.S. government (for example) has a policy to not negotiate with terrorists. Police have a policy not to give in to the demands of kidnappers. When these criminals get what they want, they don’t settle. They go for more. You need to stand up and fight.
However, there are consequences. Sometimes the consequence is death. Most people say one death is too many, but taking any loss of life in vain would be wasteful. Create meaning and purpose – it’s one thing that Evelyn taught her sons and it’s what the four brothers strive for.