A look back at how John Singleton pulled off one of the most heartfelt action hits of the 2000s.

The late John Singleton catapulted himself to the forefront of African American cinema with the gritty cult flick Boyz n the Hood. From the 2000s on he would create more light-hearted material, starting with the Shaft remake that became an instant classic.  A few years later in 2005, he teamed up with rising star Mark Wahlberg to land another slam dunk. Four Brothers delivered a wild mix of social melodrama, revenge actioner and crime thriller, so let’s have a look!

In the suburbs of Detroit, Evelyn Mercer is killed in a seemingly random robbery. Her four adopted sons and former juvenile delinquents Bobby (Wahlberg), Angel, Jeremiah and Jack reunite for her funeral. Their pledge to track down Evelyn’s killers leads them deep into the criminal underworld and the highest circles of the Detroit municipality. 

Why would anybody wanna kill the sweetest woman in the goddamn world?

We can all empathize with the admirable efforts of a foster mother to straighten out four lost causes, and so her death hits even harder. The perseverance of the brothers intensifies the emotional impact of the story, as we embark on a roller coaster ride of sadness, anger and laughter with them. This may all sound a bit kitschy, but believe me, Four Brothers has an emotional sincerity that is rarely achieved in a genre flick. 

Detroit was not in good shape in the early 2000s. Singleton paints a picture of the city as a harsh place to grow up and live, but that people also love simply because it’s their home. The brothers’ many vivid encounters also casually give us a sampling of the social classes living in the city, and some insight in their daily struggles. Many scenes show us how fraud and greed became the nemesis of honest people trying to help their community, but also how the vigilante approach of the brothers efficiently disposes of organized crime and public corruption. 

Cops like you couldn’t find tits in a strip joint

Wahlberg always seems to be in his comfort zone when he partakes in films that mix action, drama and comedy. He gives one of the best efforts I’ve seen from him as likable anti-hero, who puts his old gangster skills to use for doing some good. He is not the only one delivering a supercharged performance, all of the brothers take us on a tour de force with striking performances from Tyrese Gibson, André Benjamin and Garrett Hedlund. 

Everyone in this film sits somewhere in the spectrum of criminal activity. At the dark end of it we got Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his goons as the major antagonist of the film, and he is charismatic and vile just like it should be, a villain we love to hate! And even the smaller roles are impressively brought to life their respective actors, the cast is a huge factor for why this film is so awesome.

You keep knocking on the devil’s door long enough, someone’s gonna answer you

The emotional moments and thriller elements are balanced perfectly with a couple of killer action scenes. The stakes are high and these fellas are used to violence. When they stir up a hornet’s nest lots of punching and shooting follows. The icy Michigan winter is a refreshingly different terrain for a car chase, with almost no friction on the ground and near-zero visibility, this sequence delivers pure excitement! And the tense and atmospheric finale on the frozen Lake Michigan is the perfect finish, and surprises with a strong commitment to labor unions.

Four Brothers is a movie that is really hard to not like. It features great storytelling, terrific action, and a great chemistry between the gang of brothers. Singleton created a masterful action fairy tale, that has become a unique and ultimate masterpiece!