A saintly old white lady gets killed during a liquor store robbery in Detroit. She has four adopted sons that return to town for her funeral – Mark Wahlberg from Boogie Nights, Andre Benjamin from Be Cool, Tyrese from Baby Boy, and… some kid in a leather jacket. See, this dead lady was some kind of pillar of the community, bein a grandma to all the disadvantaged kids in the neighborhood, bringing people free turkeys on thanksgiving, teaching important moral lessons and what not. But these four kids, these were the worst motherfuckers anybody ever saw… out of all the kids she helped, these were the only little shits she couldn’t get anybody to adopt, because they were too bad. The dirty dozen of juvenile delinquents. Except there’s only four of them, I think I mentioned that already but I don’t want anybody to get confused. The dirty four brothers.
So now Motown’s Most Infamous are back in the neighborhood like blaxploitation stars, and somebody out there killed their mom, and they aren’t quite as forgiving as she is so holy shit is somebody gonna have all hell brought down on them, in my opinion.
If that isn’t a good hook, I don’t know what is, but unfortunately Mr. John Singleton doesn’t really hang too much meat on it. This isn’t a bad movie, it’s a mediocre one, which is probaly worse. The cast is good, there’s some good moments, I like the basic outline, but it just doesn’t fly.
One big mistake, they didn’t do enough with the problem child angle. We hear alot about how these were the baddest kids on the block, but we pretty much have to take their word for it. Wahlberg is pretty mean and grizzled, has apparently lived a life of crime, etc. He passes the test. Tyrese has muscles, but he’s mostly a fuckup like he gets into trouble screwin somebody else’s girlfriend and that kind of garbage. Not one of the top four worst kids in Detroit. Benjamin isn’t a bad guy at all, he’s a family man with a conscience, and even Terence Howard, the cop who explains to us the premise of the 4 brothers at the beginning, admits he’s an okay guy. And then the kid in the leather jacket, they just tell us that something bad happened to him when he was little, and the brothers pick on him and call him a fag all the time. So he’s a bad motherfucker, I guess.
Don’t get me wrong, they got the brothers shooting some guns and occasionally they do something crazy like pour gasoline on somebody. But I wish there was more of this. I wish we believed these guys were born out of satan’s ass. People should run and hide when they come down the block. They should be the devil’s rejects with heart.
I mean this is the guy who remade SHAFT so I think it was fair to hope for an updated blaxploitation style revenge movie. And that might’ve been sort of what he was going for because the soundtrack pillages half of Marvin Gaye’s classic Trouble Man soundtrack (and various other Motown tunes, since it’s Detroit). These are good songs but I wish somebody would come out with a new classic blaxploitation score. David Holmes is the only guy who ever even gives it a shot. It’s not like you can’t have funky horn sections anymore. They still exist. Let’s get to it boys. Some fresh new badass music would have gone a long way toward making this fucker pop.
One part in the movie that made me laugh, they chase a guy into his apartment and for some reason he has a bunch of rope in there that he uses to climb out the window. What’s this guy really into sailboats or something? I didn’t get why he had so much rope.
I don’t want to give away the big revelation at the end about why they killed the old lady. Luckily, I didn’t really understand why they killed her so there is no danger of slipping and giving it away. If John Singleton or somebody will explain it to me, I promise I will not give it away in this review.
I guess the best thing you can say about the movie is that the cast works well together. I like the chemistry between these guys, always sniping at each other and getting in wrestling matches in the living room, but also having that macho brotherhood bond. It probaly coulda worked with a little more elbow grease in that script.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.