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Review: 'Four Brothers' delivers the goods

By Paul Clinton
For CNN.com

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From left: Andre Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund, Mark Wahlberg and Tyrese Gibson

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(CNN) -- "Four Brothers" is a dark and brooding drama about revenge and retribution. Set on the dirty streets of Detroit, Michigan, and directed by John Singleton ("Boyz N the Hood"), this film plays out like an urban version of an old-fashioned Western.

Four adopted brothers -- two white and two black -- are reunited when their mother, Evelyn Mercer (Fionnula Flanagan), is murdered during an apparent holdup at a small grocery store.

Leading the pack in an effort to bring down the killers is the oldest brother Bobby Mercer (Mark Wahlberg), a man who acts first and thinks later.

Angel Mercer (Tyrese Gibson) is Mister Cool, mainly concerned with his libido and trying to control his hot-headed girlfriend, Sofi, (Sofia Vergara).

Jeremiah Mercer (Andre Benjamin) has become a family man with a business in trouble. The youngest brother, Jack, (Garrett Hedlund) is a wannabe rock star who is both ridiculed and protected by his older brothers.

All four are tough, street-smart guys who would probably be dead or in prison if it hadn't been for their mother.

It soon becomes apparent that Evelyn's death was not just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was a target; the robbery was just window dressing.

As the brothers start looking for revenge, the Detroit police step in, led by Lt. Green (played by Terrence Howard who is long overdue for stardom). Green grew up with the brothers and had a deep respect for their mother. His partner, however, Det. Fowler (Josh Charles), views them with disdain.

Various clues come to light and all roads lead to a sinister gangster named Victor Sweet (British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, best known for the movie "Love Actually") who rules Detroit's underworld.

Bodies start dropping and, of course, the brothers and the police clash as both groups try to solve the murder.

The main reason this films works so well is that Singleton has assembled an excellent cast to play the brothers. Wahlberg, who grew up in a poor environment, gives one of his best performances to date. He clearly knows his character and plays him to a T.

Benjamin is remarkably good. Of course, he's best known as one-half of the Grammy Award-winning musical duo OutKast.

Gibson, who delivers a well-balanced performance as Angel, is also a well-known musician and has worked with Singleton before in the films "Baby Boy" and "2 Fast 2 Furious."

Rounding out the pack is Hedlund in the role of Jack. He made his feature film debut in "Troy," opposite Brad Pitt. His is perhaps the hardest role since he needs to be both tough and vulnerable.

The screenplay by David Elliot and Paul Lovett and the direction by Singleton results in a taut, character-driven film with plenty of action. And you'll find yourself buying into the conceit that these four disparate men, two African-American and two Caucasian, are actually bonded as brothers.

You have to suspend disbelief and go along with the absence of any real police procedure and the fact that after numerous killings, the boys all go scot-free. But it's not the first film -- and won't be the last -- in which the heroes fail to suffer the consequences of their actions.

Overall, this gritty melodrama delivers the goods. The wonderful soundtrack -- a collection of Motown's oldies but goodies -- is icing on the cake.

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