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Film / Four Brothers

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A 2005 crime thriller directed by John Singleton and loosely adapted from the 1965 Western The Sons of Katie Elder, Four Brothers is a 2005 movie about what happens when beloved Detroit citizen Evelyn Mercer is murdered in a store heist.

Her four dangerous adoptive sons come to her funeral: Bobby Mercer (Mark Wahlberg), Angel Mercer (Tyrese Gibson), and Jack Mercer (Garrett Hedlund) join the regenerated ex-union leader, Jeremiah Mercer (André 3000). They decide to investigate the murder, discover that her execution was intentional, and resolve to find the criminals by themselves.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: At least two of the brothers, Bobby and Jack, are alluded to having these (either biological or foster) before Evelyn adopted them.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Bobby could be considered this prior to his mother's murder, although he becomes much more involved after returning to Detroit.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Jack is often treated like this, especially when he tries to act as the Only Sane Man by telling his brothers to stop doing something dangerous or stupid. Unfortunately, he's often promptly told to shut up.
  • Anti-Hero: Bobby. For starters, he's willing to walk into a high school basketball game with a gun and assault a player just to find a paid off witness to his mother's shooting.
  • Asian Store-Owner: The owner of the store where Evelyn was killed is Middle Eastern. The clerk who was killed was likely one of his relatives as well.
  • Bad Boss: Victor Sweet. This gets deconstructed as his abuse of his henchmen is what causes them to side with the Mercers against him.
  • Batman Gambit: The brothers pull one off at the end, exploiting Victor Sweet's Bad Boss tendencies to turn his men against him while playing on the paranoia of Dirty Cop Fowler to manipulate him into getting himself killed.
  • Berserk Button: Don't ever hurt a member of Bobby Mercer's family or talk bad about Evelyn around Jack. Period.
  • Big Bad: Victor Sweet is the man behind Evelyn's death and is willing to kill the brothers to.
  • Big Brother Bully: Bobby is this to his brothers, mainly to Jack.
  • Big Brother Instinct: The three oldest brothers all have this, but it's especially clear in Bobby.
  • Big Little Brother: The youngest of the four brothers, Jack, is by far the tallest. Coincidentally, Bobby is the shortest.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Detective Flower seems like a hardworking and dedicated Police Officer but it’s revealed that he’s on Sweet's payroll and pretty much handed Evelyn to Sweet to be murdered. Bonus points for “Smiling Faces” being played in the background when Green sees through his innocent facade at the bar.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Victor Sweet is defeated in a fistfight, his empire turns against him, and Dt. Fowler is shot dead, the brothers successfully avenging their mother. However, their journey came with more than a handful of deaths, including Lt. Green. Most damning of all; out of the titular four brothers, one of them doesn't make it to the end of the film.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Bobby and Angel.
  • Butt-Monkey: Jack is the most unlucky of the brothers, and gets little respect form them while being dragged into the revenge game. Might also double as a Cosmic Plaything. He is also the only one who dies.
  • Car Chase: Bobby, Angel, and Jack chase down the men who were hired to kill their mother through Detroit during a blizzard.
    • On rims when their front tires get shot.
  • The Casanova: Angel certainly acts like one, although the results can be questionable at times.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: All over the place, especially if Bobby's in the scene.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: When the brothers find that Evelyn had been corresponding with a local attorney, they force him to tell them what he knows by giving him a pink-belly in the snow. (For the uninitiated, this is a tactic more suited to elementary school bullies than professional torturers). As it turns out, he and Evelyn had been dating in secret, and he had nothing to do with why she was killed.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Bobby is not at all above this if it gets him the information that he wants or the person killed a member of his family.
    "Now I gotta light your ass on fire! All I wanted was a name, but you're gonna make me turn your ass into the black gingerbread man now!"
  • Corrupt Politician: Councilman Douglas! Even Jeremiah lampshades this to Jack, who thought the city shut his project down.
    Jeremiah: "Sweet owns Douglas! He ain't nothing but a gangster in a suit!"
  • Crapsack World: Detroit is definitely portrayed as this.
  • Creator Cameo: Jon Singleton is the goalie of the opposing hockey team during the Turkey Cup scene.
  • The Cutie: Jack is the most shy and least ruthless of the brothers.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: All of the brothers have this in spades.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Green finds Fowler at a bar, reveals he knows what he's up to, gets violent on him and therefore establishes himself as a threat...and then turns his back to him and walks out, as if expecting Fowler won't follow and retaliate. Sure enough, Green ends up getting shot.
    • Fowler himself isn't very good at keeping his head during his Engineered Public Confession. Once he realised Angel had him on a wire, he would surely know that such a thing is hardly an admission of guilt and given Angel broke into his house and assaulted him could easily have covered up by saying he was threatened into confessing.
  • Dirty Cop: Detective Fowler.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Victor Sweet's abused underlings probably would have turned on him for free, but the $400,000 Bobby bribes them with is enough for them to happily bury Sweet under a frozen lake once Bobby's done knocking the shit out of him.
  • Don't Tell Mama: Implied to have happened quite often, both in the past and present. Of course, it's also stated that Evelyn always found out what they did anyways.
  • The Dragon: Detective Fowler is working for Sweet and carrying out a lot of his dirty work.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Jack has plenty including "Cracker Jack", "Jackie Poo" and "Little Fairy".
  • Engineered Public Confession
  • Establishing Character Moment: Victor Sweet's first scene not only establishes his villain cred, but also his Bad Boss tendencies; when an underling, Evan, goes to take a bite of food while Victor's dressing down his crew for hiring in-town shooters, Victor forces him to eat his whole meal off the floor. When Evan's girlfriend calls Victor out on it, he forces her to join Evan on the floor.
    Victor: [smugly as Evan eats] That's a good boy.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: And how. Might as well be the film's tag line.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Several of Sweet's men, like Evan and Charlies, have wives, girlfriends and kids.
  • Fan Disservice: In the same scene in which we get Fanservice, Bobby is sitting on the toilet reading the newspaper. Angel tells him to light a match.
  • Fanservice: Every brother but Bobby gets a shirtless scene and as a bonus Jack is completely naked in the shower. Also Sofi in her lacy bra and panties.
  • Flaw Exploitation: The brothers brutally exploit Victor Sweet's mistreatment of his workers, turning them against Sweet with the right incentive.
  • Flipping the Bird: Numerous times, both by the brothers and the hired guns. The latter usage has tragic results.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Jeremiah and Jack are far more responsible and rational than their more impulsive and hot-headed brothers, Bobby and Angel. Making Jack's death all the more surprising.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: The brothers seem to fit this — Bobby is Choleric, Jeremiah is Melancholic, Angel is Sanguine, and Jack is Phlegmatic.
  • Four Is Death: Enforced then subverted.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: The brothers successfully track down and finish off their mother's killer, but they never anticipated losing their youngest brother in the process.
  • Good Is Not Nice: All four brothers, especially Bobby.
  • Guns Akimbo: Angel dual wields two pistols in the shootout at the Mercer house.
  • Happily Adopted: Jack states in a deleted scene that they never went in search of their biological parents because Evelyn was enough.
  • Happily Married: Jeremiah's wife is incredibly loving and understanding, Jeremiah thinks of her and the kids as he's stabbing a man to death.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Bobby and Victor are both hot-heads. Bobby beats up people or holds them at gunpoint on a whim and Victor has some quite nasty Bad Boss moments when disappointed by his men.
  • Hero Insurance: The Mercer brothers commit numerous felonies throughout the movie, including home invasion, breaking and entering, and assault. They also murder several villains in cold blood after said villains have been disarmed and can't fight back.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Played for Laughs but they drop him anyway.
  • Idiot Ball: Jack leaves the house to chase someone who cursed out his dead mom and assaulted him with a snowball; it's bait to draw him out into the open and shoot him.
  • Implied Death Threat: Bobby and Angel love this trope, as does Victor Sweet and his cronies. However, by the climax, full-out death threats become more the norm.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Despite having a huge numerical advantage, Sweed's assassins get slaughtered by the Mercers during the home shootout, mainly because most of them just stand out in the open and mindlessly "spray and pray" all their shots.
  • In-Series Nickname: Bobby was known as the Michigan Mauler during his minor league ice hockey days.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: All of the brothers, but especially Bobby. He has a quick, violent temper and is prone to solving problems either with threats or guns. He's not above saying a Thanksgiving prayer, though, and cares very much about his mom and brothers. He's also seen crying no fewer than three times throughout the movie.
  • Kick the Dog: Victor Sweet's usual way of punishment even going so far as forcing Evan and his wife to eat food off of the floor for "sitting in his seat". He also demands that one of his mooks let him have sex with his fiancee. Luckily, he never gets to.
  • Kill the Cutie: In classic Jon Singleton Style.
  • Knight Templar Big Brother: Bobby. He turns into this when any of his brothers are hurt, but especially Jack.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Jeremiah is the most passive and level headed of the group. His wrestling match with Angel and confrontation shows that when he's pushed, he can even make Bobby Backdown.
  • Lying to the Perp: Fowler's ultimate demise.
  • Machiavelli Was Wrong: Sweet's Bad Boss tendencies are the source of his downfall.
  • Mama Bear: Evelyn in general, but especially evident when she goes to the police after finding out that Victor Sweet was trying to illegally shut down Jeremiah's development project.
  • Manly Tears : Many tears are shed, but especially Bobby.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: All of Victor Sweet's men turn against him after all the abuse he's heaped onto them.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Sofi is introduced in her underwear, partially wrapped in a blanket running away with Angel from her previous boyfriend, who did not take them getting back together well.
  • Momma's Boy: Jerimiah was this to Evelyn and when he was accused by his brothers for playing a part in their mother's death to secure the $400,000 from their mother's life insurance, he reminded them why he is said trope.
  • Mook–Face Turn: Victor Sweet's men turn against him, thanks to the brothers paying them money Sweet has been withholding. Sweet forgot the Union history with his men - Union guys stand up for their own rights.
  • Morality Chain: Evelyn was this to the title characters. The film starts with her grisly murder, and then the boys find out that this wasn't a random mugging, but she was executed per orders of the Big Bad.
  • The Napoleon: Victor is a shorter, hot-tempered and violent guy, albeit more in a Soft-Spoken Sadist way at times..
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Many of the TV spots for the film made it seem like a comedy, with a scene leading to the death of a major character being taken out of context and Played for Laughs.
  • New Old West: As mentioned, this is basically The Sons of Katie Elder transported to modern-day Detroit.
  • Nice Guy: Jack and Jeremiah are far more approachable and friendly than Bobby and Angel .
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: During the shooting when Jack is shot and killed Bobby is so enraged that Angel has to pull him off of the guy in mid-gunfight. The next victim of his rage turns out to be Victor Sweet himself, and naturally, no one even tries to stop Bobby this time.
  • N-Word Privileges: All of the characters do this, but Bobby is definitely the worse offender, especially since he's white and tends to drops N-bombs like candy whenever he's pissed off. This is likely a result of Bobby growing up with two black brothers and living in one of the roughest neighborhoods of Detroit.
  • Only Sane Man: Jack and Jeremiah often share this role.
  • Papa Wolf: Jeremiah slowly gets to this in the end.
  • Parental Abandonment: Angel and Bobby don't even have adoption papers.
  • Plot Allergy: Played for Laughs briefly. Sofi is apparently allergic to latex and is mad when she finds Angel with a bag of latex condoms (althoguh he claims they were for his last girlfriend).
  • Police Are Useless: The Detroit Police Department is depicted as being hopelessly corrupt and inept. The Mercer brothers are easily able to find clues to Evelyn's murder that the Detroit detectives somehow miss.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Bobby says the N-word a lot and usually mocks Sofi with spanish idiomes.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "You killed my mother and my little brother, you motherfucker. Thank Victor Sweet!" BANG!
  • Pyromaniac: Bobby seems to love playing with fire, to the point where Jerry is fearful for his house's safety. He also likes to threaten people with it.
    Jeremiah: Do you remember when I built that tree house and you burnt that shit down? Boy, I wanted to kick your ass!
    Bobby: Don't worry, your house is brick, I ain't gonna burn it down.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Jeremiah gives one to Bobby, Angel and Jack when they accuse him of playing a part in their mother's death.
    Jeremiah: Y'all tripping because I made insurance payments? What? I paid all her bills! Where the fuck were y'all? Y'all were around doing nothing! Bullshitting!
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Bobby and Angel are as red as you can get, Jeremiah and Jack are quite clearly in the blue.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The man plot of the movie Doubly over when Jack dies to.
  • Scary Black Man: Angel likes to use this stereotype to intimidate people during interrogations.
  • Scenery Gorn: The depressingly colorless scenes of a rundown, desolate, and snowy Detroit are eerily haunting.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Jack and Jeremiah are the Sensitive Guys to Bobby and Angel’s Manly Man.
  • Sibling Team: And probably one of the sexiest.
  • The Siege: Happens when Sweet's men goes to attack the Mercers at their home.
  • The Smart Guy: Jeremiah is the only brother whose really established himself in business and tries to stay out of the revenge scheme, but adds some smarts to it when he's brought in.
  • Snow Means Death: Bobby and Angel shoot their mother's killers in the middle of thick snow fall.
  • Spicy Latina: Angel's on again-off again girlfriend, Sofi.
  • Suspiciously Apropos Music: When Lt. Green goes to confront Fowler at the bar, The Undisputed Truth's "Smiling Faces Sometimes" is playing on the jukebox.
  • Team Mom: Sofi fills a bit of this role, living at the house, cooking for the brothers, helping bandage a cut on Bobby's arm, and showing concern for their safety Such as when Jack has been shot.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Jack's death from running outside after a snowballed.
  • Token Good Cop: Lieutenant Green is a fair and diligent cop while his partner Fowler is corrupt, and most of the other detectives who appear are fine with brutalizing suspects to try and close a big case.
  • Too Dumb to Live: At first, Lt. Green appears to be the only competent cop in the DPD. This illusion is shattered near the end of the movie, when Green finds proof that Fowler is corrupt. He doesn't turn the evidence of Fowler's corruption over to his superiors on the force, nor does he tell any of his fellow cops, nor does he tell anyone else. Instead he goes to confront Fowler alone just to beat him up and then walk away, giving Fowler the perfect opportunity to murder him. Fowler then has no trouble covering up the murder since Green never told anyone he was dirty
  • Tragic Keepsake: Evelyn's rosary, which Bobby wears around his neck during the movie.
  • Tranquil Fury: Bobby's final fight with Sweet.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: How the brothers expose and take down Fowler, complete with a red herring of Sofi going to the cops.
  • Vigilante Execution: The Mercer brothers take out many of Sweet's cronies and eventually Sweet himself without any permanent legal repercussions.
  • Troubled, but Cute: All the brothers seem to fit this.
  • Villain Protagonist: Bobby is this or Nominal Hero.
  • Violence Discretion Shot: Played straight with Evelyn's murder, but later subverted when Bobby watches the security footage and we see her being gunned down.
  • Violence Really Is the Answer: Jeremiah is depicted as being peaceful and lawful in contrast to his brothers. He tends to avoid participating in their violent acts for most of the movie, but the battle at the Mercer household pushes him to killing for the defense of his family.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Sofi and Bobby seem to be this, they argue and insult each other constantly but she seems to be the only person other than his brothers that he trusts to get stuff done.
  • We Need a Distraction: The kid pretending to sell Baby Ruth bars. Angel uses him to ambush Detective Fowler.