Quite often, a film I'm watching will be undone by only a couple of scenes which send it spiraling into the flushing vortex of forgettable, incompetent and utterly offensive filmmaking. Imagine if, in the middle of "Citizen Kane," Orson Welles had a guy in a panda suit doing cartwheels across the screen and you begin to appreciate my sense of how badly some things stick out. It's not that I see many "Citizen Kanes" in the course of my movie-watching regimen, but I do see a lot of films with more unintentionally tragic scenes than Paris Hilton's sex tape.
In director John ("Boyz N' the Hood") Singleton's "Four Brothers," there are two critical sequences that should make any decent person, religious or not, wretch in disgust. Early in the film, joining for their first dinner together in many years because of the murder of their mother (Fionnula Flanagan), four adopted brothers pray to Jesus Christ, their lord and savior. In the climactic scene, after Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), Angel (Tyrese), Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin) and Jack (Garrett Hedlund) have riddled more people full of bullet holes than a Fedayeen death squad, Bobby comes striding across a frozen lake, his crucifix swinging from his neck like the bling on a two-bit evangelist.
It's a little bit disgusting that in these days when religion is being used as some kind of blunt weapon, Singleton so blithely uses faith in Jesus (a faith I suspect he shares) as the justification for murderous revenge. I'm sorry, but was that Jesus's mantra - teaching the numerous ways one could obliterate one's enemies? I get the feeling that if Jesus were to reappear in John Singleton's world, he'd be holding an AK-47 and mowing down the unconverted like Rambo on a steroid-induced rampage.
Don't be distracted by the integration of the Mercer family. The two white guys and the two black guys get along like a "We Are the World" mini-jamboree. Unfortunately, it seems as though conquering racial prejudice leads to the release of that energy in other ways. In this case, there's an awful lot of commentary from Bobby about Jack's gay tendencies. This is Bobby's deranged way of displaying affection, yet in the context of the film's obnoxious proselytizing, it's disturbing.
Revenge movies have a long history. The best never apologize for their hero's motives. Here, Singleton not only wants to apologize, he wants to justify his characters' actions using entirely specious arguments, making this movie feel like a John Geoghan sermon on the evils of child abuse.
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