Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre 3000, Garret Hedlund, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sofia Vergara, Terrence Howard, Josh Charles, Taraji P Henson, and Fionula Flanagan.
Directed By: John Singleton
Where I Watched It: Netflix
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
The Plot: Four brothers (Wahlberg/Gibson/3000/Hedlund) return to their stomping grounds upon news that their mother (Flanagan) responsible for raising them was killed. How could someone shoot a nice old lady like that, and why? These four brothers are going to get some answers, and some revenge.
What works: Yes, this is my first time through this. I acknowledge the randomness of me picking this title, but it had audio description, and I hadn’t seen it, and Netflix warned me it was leaving at the end of the month. I remember this doing fairly well with audiences, and not too terrible with critics.That all tracks, because what I found was a pretty serviceable revenge movie with a talented and competent cast, and some good choices from the late John Singleton. It’s not a perfect film, nor is it a classic. But there just might be enough here to keep it from fading into complete obscurity as the years progress.
This is one of those films where you put Wahlberg and Gibson in there, and half the dialogue has to go to them anyway. They can’t play quiet. They play characters who talk a lot, and they do it well. Some people do the strong silent stuff really well, and that has mostly been given to Hedlund (likely because at the time he was the least well known of the four brothers). But, when you see these four together, they feel like there’s some kind of brotherhood, and some individuality with each of them.
The supporting cast all just support. This is before Taraji really blew up, so her role is pretty small. Flanagan is a great actress, but her character dies in the opening scene. She does what she can in flashbacks. Howard and Charles play pretty average cops. Vergara, before she became a walking cliche where she can now only play Gloria from Modern Family or sell you furniture, is surprisingly good in a role that would feel now like she’s being cast against type.
The movie is well paced, the action sequences are interesting enough, and there are several moments of tension that work well. It’s not a bad watch.
What Doesn’t Work: I didn’t like the choice to spend so much time setting up the characters, the brothers, by having them celebrate Thanksgiving before they really even seem to care about catching her killer. It didn’t feel as urgent, and the sympathy for these characters lessens due to it. Imagine if Liam Neeson’s daughter had been taken, but he had to go do something else inconsequential first that was character building, but odd overall in a revenge action thriller. That’s how the first 20 minutes of this feels. Like you’re waiting for the film to begin.
Meanwhile, Ejiofor is a comically terrible villain. There’s another villain here that’s a bit of a twist that was also silly, but Ejiofor is just unchecked rage for no real reason whatsoever. And his rules are so weird. is he doing these deals in front of kids when he makes the guy go to the kids table? i know that’s supposed to be funny… but why?
The final fight is a bit nonsensical. Like, where did Wahlberg come from? How long did he need to walk to make that look cool? And, again, why? Like, are we just doing things because they are funny or look cool, even though they make no sense? This is John Singleton. He’s better than that.
Also, I know it’s 2022, and we’ve made some progress more recently than in 2005, but this film is far too comfortable allowing Wahlberg’s character to be so overtly racist. He absolutely drops the N-bomb, not to one of his black brothers, but another character. And since at least one brother was standing next to him, you’d think I’d get some kind of reaction from them like they were appalled at his use of that word. Nope. I guess he’s just allowed. He also refuses to learn Gibson’s girlfriend’s name (Vergara) for the majority of the film, constantly calling her anything but her name, like La Vida Loca. Wahlberg of all actors should be concerned with appearing racist. He’s already been racist enough for a lifetime, or perhaps not if he was able to get that little thing off his record. Still, he should be trying to play the complete opposite of this character with every choice.
The Blind Perspective: Well done narration that got no credit at all in the credits. I wish the film had bothered to give Vergara a name a lot sooner so she could be referred to as her name, instead of her relationship to Gibson’s character. It made her feel non-important. Otherwise, the details here are good. They let you know when people are wearing masks, or have braided beards, and we get the mother’s execution described. It all worked, and I had no problems.
Final Thoughts: I’m not sure I was missing anything by not seeing this, but I also am not mad for having finally watched this. Plus, with John Singleton now gone, it felt a little heavier watching something of his. especially something I hadn’t seen before.
Final Grade: B-