Sunday, August 21, 2005


Four Brothers

Some number of years ago, back in 1993, I saw this movie Tombstone. Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer were in it, and it gave a fictionalized account of the gunfight at the OK Corral, and assorted adventures of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and their pals in the aftermath of it. Now my knowledge of movies is nowhere near encyclopedic, but the thing that struck me the most was the cathartic nature of the film. I left it charged and excited, energized. I was telling my friends how it seemed like a very long time since a good shoot-em-up movie had been out. Thinking back now, I can also see that the film gave me a chance to vicariously experience some righteous justice being administered to evil guys by good men. Of course I know that good guys don't always win. I can also admit that sometimes there can be more emotional resonance in the story of a good guy who loses. Sometimes losing is a lesson all its own, and it can be a lesson worth learning. Still, if you'll forgive my language, sometimes you just want some righteous justice, ass-kicking style, and it can send you over the moon more than ten Merchant-Ivory productions.

So with satellite tasking almost over, Miss Tori and I were back at the office getting things set up for the new clients. We finished early and decided to take a chance on heading by the theater. Who knows? Maybe Must Love Dogs will be playing at a convenient time (as it turned out, I missed my chance; it left the theater already). The only thing playing without waiting an hour or more was Four Brothers. You know, with Marky Mark. Of course, with two white brothers and two black brothers, I might have thought for a moment that it was a comedy. You know, some sort of Brady Bunch, Mr. Mom, Vice-Versa type wacky fish out of water type of movie. Or it could go the more reasonable way, these four were only four of many who have been raised as foster children by the mother figure they have come together to avenge. So what the heck, it's still matinee pricing at this point, let's see it.

The movie opens on a snowy city street, maybe in Detriot, but I don't really remember. Just think big city and you'll be fine. Evelyn Mercer is in a quickie mart type store, slapping the wrist of a young boy who was trying to steal candy. She gives him a stern talking to and sends him on his way. She heads to the back of the store, and is able to take cover when robbers come in the front and rob the place. They shoot the cashier, then head to the back of the store after hearing a noise. They find Evelyn there, and kill her as well. Both robbers are wearing ski masks and couldn't be identified, so the killing seemed especially brutal.

Evelyn's death leads to the reunion of the four brothers. While she had any number of foster children that she helped place in adoptive homes, these four were such bad seeds, no one else would take them. Mrs. Mercer adopts them, and Bobby, Angel, Jeremiah, and Jack become the Mercer brothers. While Jeremiah stayed in town, got married, and started a family, the other three scattered to the winds. Lt Green, who is investigating the murder, stops by the funeral. He knew the brothers from when they were all kids, and he advises them to let the cops do their jobs. Green knows that Bobby (Marky Mark) and the others are the sorts of hard cases that might be tempted to seek out some vigilante justice. He wasn't made Lieutenant for nothing.

The boys do some checking around and visit the store where the shooting took place. The owner invites them inside to look at the security video. Ma Mercer was such an angel in the neighborhood, he'll go the extra mile to help the boys. Watching the tape from the perspective of a criminal background, Bobby determines that the robbery was just a front to disguise a hit on their mom. Now we'll definitely have some vigilante justice, and watching it unfold is a thing of beauty.

You know some cops, like the cops in Beverly Hills Cop, are kind of sensitive type wusses, and other cops are Dirty Harry type ass kickers? If these brothers were cops, they'd be in the Harry Callahan mold. Are they operating outside the law? Yes. Will you care? No. That is a dilemma. How do you justify breaking the law like this? Aren't we just encouraging other people to take the law in their own hands? Possibly, but the film addresses this point to my satisfaction. I'd love to tell you more, but I don't want to ruin the ending for you.

But as long as I'm referencing other movies, let me toss in one more to highlight a highlight, if you take my meaning. In the beginning of True Lies, a getaway in a van on an icy road is played for laughs, with Tom Arnold bouncing back and forth across the road as he tries to keep control. If you're lucky, that's as close as you've ever come to being in a car slipping on the ice and not knowing if you'll manage to avoid a crash, serious injury, or death. Seeing Tom whip the wheel left and right, we can laugh as he faces a danger we are safe from. One of the most thrilling parts of four Brothers is a car chase on snowy, icy roads in the city. The boys are chasing two suspects. A couple of times, I said to myself, oh come on, you have to give up, it's too dangerous to keep going. I was rooting for the boys to let the bad guys go, just so they wouldn't get hurt and could pick up the chase another day. Needless to say, that's why I'm in the audience, and these guys are in the movie. They didn't give up, and the result is one of the best car chases on film, as far as I'm concerned.

It's rated R for violence, language, and a little bit of sex, but just remember that sometimes, these things are relevant to the story. You don't go to see Saving Private Ryan because you want to watch guys drink cups of tea with their pinkies held out. Same goes here. Everybody's heard bad words before, this won't kill you. The violence is what you'd expect from a movie with guys fighting and shooting at each other. It's there, but not like you'd find in a slasher flick. And the sexual moment that stands out in my mind was played for laughs; sex was involved, but it wasn't sexual, if you take my meaning.

I went in to this movie on a whim, and I left it, just like I left Tombstone, energized. Go see it.
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