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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir John Singleton|
scr David Elliot, Paul Lovett
with Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, André Benjamin, Garrett Hedlund, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Terrence Howard, Josh Charles, Fionnula Flanagan, Sofía Vergara, Barry Shabaka Henley, Taraji P Henson, Jernard Burks
release US 12.Aug.05,
05/US Paramount 1h59
Four for Thanksgiving: Hedlund, Benjamin, Wahlberg, Gibson
There's a strong enough story here, with powerful characters that make this worth seeing. Although director Singleton seems to struggle to keep it under control, finally giving up in the end and letting a dopey Hollywood finale overrun the film.
Evelyn Mercer (Flanagan) was clearly a saint; she adopted four very troubled boys and raised them as brothers. Now grown men (Wahlberg, Gibson, Benjamin and Hedlund), they've reunited in Detroit for her funeral. But they're troubled by the circumstances surrounding her death, and they feel the detectives (Howard and Charles) aren't doing enough to find her killer. So they start their own investigation, which leads to the baddest bad guy in Motor City (Ejiofor).
While the plot isn't terribly original, the film at least takes a bracingly fresh approach through the four central characters--very different men who clearly have a tight brotherly bond and a palpable camaraderie. All four are extremely very well-played, although we never find out anything about them--only one (family guy Benjamin) gets any back story to speak of. This leaves a gaping hole in the film, making it hard for us to really identify or engage with these characters, no matter how natural their interaction is. Other characters--while also extremely blessed with strong performances--are similarly vague and sketchy. This is an odd misstep for a director known for incisive character studies like Boyz N the Hood.
The film is beautifully shot, all wintry snow and gloomy innercity backdrops. There are a couple of astonishing sequences, most notably a car chase on iced-over streets and a staggering neighbourhood shootout. And the growing, constantly twisting mystery is quite involving. So when it takes a couple of weirdly stupid turns at the end it's badly disappointing. All logic is jettisoned and the story stumbles into what looks like a lame vanity climax, followed by tacked-on heartwarming schmaltz. We keep waiting for the characters to deepen and reveal themselves to us, but that never happens. In the end, for all its important messages and artistic quality, it's just a superficial, overlong melodrama.
|Champ, Canada: "Good. Great. Grand. Get on the bus." (15.Aug.05)|
© 2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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