race and identity in the movie four brothers

            This essay will dissect the role of race and identity in the movie Four Brothers.  The underlying treatment of this paper will deal with how the media of the movie portrays such issues and how the four main protagonists of the film each identify the issue in varying aspects.

            The film takes place in Detroit Michigan in a modern day era.  This modern day era involves such issues that arise today in Detroit such as race issues, and yet the underscoring point of the film is that of family.  The four brothers in the film are adoptive sons of the same woman Evelyn Mercer.  The mother is the victim of a crime and the brothers each come back to their childhood home in order to find out that the crime involves a much larger scale crime cover-up involving a kingpin.

            The four characters are Bobby, Jerry, Angel, and Jackie Mercer.  Each of these characters presents a stereotyped persona of a specific trait or traits.  Each in their own way had difficult childhoods, either at the fault of their parents or out of their destructive nature brought about by their environment and exposure to violence.  Bobby’s character is the oldest of the adoptive brothers, a white man with a very rough attitude and a penchant for brawling, as is seen when he plays hockey.  Jerry is a black man who grew up to become a respectable person in his neighborhood raising his own family and is thought to be very dependable.  Angel, after getting out of high school, went straight into the marines and his personality type is that of a playboy.  Jackie Mercer is the youngest of the adoptive brothers and is portrayed as the most emotional.  He had a violent childhood.  The strongest relationship in the movie is witnessed between Bobby and Jack, as Bobby takes it upon himself to be Jack’s guardian.

            Since the most obvious issue presented and thoroughly developed in the movie is about family, this paper will further expound upon this fact.  The four brothers decide that the law will not handle the murder of their mother Evelyn with any serious investigation and so they jointly become vigilantes in the pursuit of her killers.  Through their own investigative work the brothers find out that their mother’s murder was in fact more of an assassination since the hit was planned.  This revelation in the story allows each character to emotionally and with the discourse of intelligence develop for the audience with more dynamic characteristics as their struggle to avenge their mother’s murder and to keep their societal status and family in good standing (as is shown most notable with Jerry’s character).  Thus, it is Bobby, Jack, and Angle who track down the alleged witness of the crime and discover the truth of the cover-up; leaving Jerry to his own devices and sense of propriety.

            It is Bobby and Angel are the two brothers who eventually kill the assassinators.  This action is concurrent to their two personas; one being a brawler, the other a marine.  The story’s development further extols the fact that Jerry is the beneficiary of their mother’s life insurance and it is Angle who discovers that Jerry’s construction business is at a loss for profit.  This scene develops into a strong confrontation between the two dynamic characters of Angel and Jerry.  With this truth in plain sight now, Angel must choose between his loyalty to one brother and his loyalty to the rest of the family, and his murdered mother.

            Angel comes to a quick decision during this conflict of loyalties.  Angel tells Bobby and Jack about Jerry’s illegal activities and that his construction company was shut down by an underhanded councilman.  The brothers interrogate the councilman to find out that behind their mother’s assassination the mob boss, Victor Sweet.  Thus, the film entangles the elements of family, loyalty, murder, and the mafia in an entanglement of intrigue as well as discovery of each brother’s limit in personality, and his strength in the same capacity.

              Jerry is witnessed paying off one of Sweet’s men in a bowling alley thus confirming for the three brother’s the depth of Jerry’s debt and involvement in their mother’s death.  This is the pinnacle of the movie; the fact that the film is about the ties of family between adoptive brothers and the length they are willing to go to for their mother who gave them a second chance and hope.  The fact that Jerry has betrayed their cemented trust created in childhood trauma and growth becomes that much more poignant when the brother’s discover his double cross because Jerry sacrificed the one woman whom they all called mother.

            This tale of events however becomes more clear when the three brothers confront Jerry and Jerry says that the life insurance money went to him because he had been paying their mother’s bills since the other brothers weren’t around and that he had to pay Sweet because he hadn’t been paying him and that was why his construction business was failing.  With this light shed on the subject of family and trust, the characters of the film must once again change their perspective.  The next tumultuous scene is when Jack is murdered by gunfire in front of his brother’s eyes, much to the anger of Bobby.  Further discovery of their mother’s death occurs when Victor Sweet is discovered to be the murderer of their mother when they discover through their friend Lt. Green that Victor was handed a police report given by Evelyn which stated Sweet’s continued aggressive involvement in Jerry’s affairs.

            The resolution of the film occurs with Bobby and Sweet having a fistfight and Bobby renders Sweet unconscious and the brothers drop his body into the lake.  The characters strength of loyalty is only further revealed and shown to have grown at the end of the movie.  With the thought of family being the main attribute and defining characteristic of each brother the film closes with Bobby talking to his dead mother who asks him if he staying long this time.  The Four Brothers is a film not based on race, but instead of the boundaries of race overcome for four adoptive brothers who view themselves as nothing less than family, and stick by this moral code throughout the film.

Work Cited

Four Brothers.  Paramount Pictures.  2005.

2. focus on the most important issues from step one and discuss how the movie treated this/these issues. although the choice of media may address several issues from step one, you should focus on the most significant issues (no more then 3 issues) some questions that are helpful in guiding the analysis include:

b. how do institutions (focus on structural elements) either challenge and or reinforce their treatment as unequal?

c. what are the consequences of the experiences of the key figures? what happens as a result of their position in society?

The seemingly-random murder of their adoptive mother in a convenience store sends four brothers to Detroit on the path of vengeance when they uncover a tangled criminal web involving a local kingpin.

Although they are not related by blood, the four brothers display the loyalty and love of a real family.

Bobby Mercer, portrayed by Mark Wahlberg, is the oldest and most volatile of the brothers, often getting into fights over the smallest of insults. Stubborn to a fault, Bobby possesses a short-temper and has long since been hardened by a turbulent childhood and numerous jail terms. He was known as the ‘Michigan Mauler’ during his ice hockey days and was ‘thrown out of sixty-odd games before the league had finally had enough of him.’ His loyalty lies in only one place: his family.

Jeremiah Mercer, portrayed by Andre Benjamin, is the second oldest and most rational of the brothers. He is very level-headed and sensible in even the most trying of situations. He is married to a young woman named Camille and has two young daughters, Daniela and Amelia. Jerry owns his own construction company and is known throughout the neighborhood as a good, hard-working businessman.

Angel Mercer, portrayed by Tyrese Gibson, is the third oldest and the ‘player’ of the brothers. He is often called a pretty boy by the people around him because of his constant need to impress members of the opposite sex. Angel joined the Marines right out of high school and his brothers often poke fun at him, questioning how a player like him ever made it through four years of having little to no contact with women. Angel has had an on-off relationship with the hot-tempered Sofi, a Puerto Rican woman whom his brothers cannot stand to be in the same room as most of the time. Bobby obnoxiously refers to her as ‘La Vida Loca’.

Jack “Jackie” Mercer, portrayed by Garrett Hedlund, is the youngest and most emotional of the four brothers. Quiet and sensitive, Jack is the opposite of his older brothers. It is made rather clear that Jack had experienced a very traumatic childhood before he was adopted by Evelyn Mercer. Arguing and shouting makes him very uneasy and Jack often looks to his brothers for reassurence. Despite Bobby’s short temper he seems to be rather cautious around his youngest brother and is the closest of the brothers to Jack, taking an almost guardian-like position in his life. Jack’s greatest passion is ice hockey and music, especially punk rock. Not even of legal drinking age, Jackie is treated as the baby of the family and often becomes frustrated by his older brothers’ protective natures.

After returning to Detroit for their mother’s funeral, four adopted brothers set about avenging their mother’s death, though warned not to by childhood friend and investigating officer Lt. Green (Terrence Howard) who admonishes that the police must be allowed to do their job, at the great derision of Bobby (Wahlberg).

Originally under the impression the crime was a simple “robbery-gone-wrong”, the brothers soon discover that the robbery was merely a cover for what was, in fact, a “hit” put out on their beloved mother. After this revelation, Bobby, Angel (Gibson), and Jack Mercer (Hedlund) track down the hired guns via the alleged “witness,” who was paid by the hitmen. The witness gave up the location of the hitmen after falling and badly injuring his leg. The brothers then approach the contract killers at a bar, which leads to an intense car chase. The assassins are eventually cornered and, refusing to say anything, are unceremoniously executed by Bobby and Angel.

The next day, Lt. Green and Detective Fowler confront the brothers about the murder. Fowler, losing his head, claims Bobby’s hair was found on the victims – to which Bobby responds is “an old one (trick)” – knowing it was a lie. Lt. Green warns them once again: if they keep knocking on the devils door, eventually, someone will answer.

Later in the week, Angel is informed that Jeremiah (Benjamin) is the beneficiary of their mother’s $400,000 life insurance policy and that his construction company is nearly bankrupt, facts which he had neglected to mention in any previous conversation. After further investigation by the brothers, Angel believes that Jeremiah’s construction projects were shut down by the city after it was discovered he was involved with a mob boss. After presenting this information to Jack and Bobby, Jack and Bobby confront the corrupt city councilmen to learn the boss’ name, Victor Sweet (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Angel, Bobby and Jack’s worst fears are realized when they witness Jeremiah paying off one Sweet’s men, Evan, in a bowling alley with their mother’s life insurance.

After confronting Jeremiah with their concerns, in a rather violent manner, the brothers are treated to a somewhat different version of events. Jeremiah informs then that his construction company was failing precisely because he wasn’t getting involved with Victor Sweet, and that for a project to succeed he had to pay off the right people, which he initially failed to do so. In his effort to restore his business and relieve pressure from himself, he tried to pay off Sweet’s henchman. As for the life insurance, Jeremiah explains that the money went directly to him because he paid all of their mother’s bills, while his other brothers weren’t around.

During the confrontation with Jeremiah, someone knocked on the front door. Opening the door, Jack is greeted by a snowball in the face and an epithet degrading his mother’s virtue. In anger he proceeds to chase the offender, who suddenly turns around revealing a masked face and fires a bullet into his right shoulder. At this point Bobby notices Jack’s absence, and, rushing to the front door, sees a van arrive which emerges a team of masked gunmen. Before Bobby can reach Jack, the youngest brother is shot an additional four times in the legs. A massive firefight ensues, with Jack stranded, injured and crying for help, in the middle of the street. In the end, the Mercer boys manage to subdue their assailants, who they learn have been sent by Victor Sweet. They call for help for Jack only to have him die before help can arrive.

When Lt. Green arrives, he informs them that their mother had a few weeks past filed a major police report regarding Victor Sweet and his involvement in Jeremiah’s affairs, and that report was passed on to Victor Sweet, this confirms in the brothers minds the knowledge that Sweet was responsible for their mother’s murder. Lt. Green also tells them not to worry, as he assures them it will go down as self-defense. He also tells them that he recently learned Detective Fowler was the rat, who was responsible for taking their mother’s report and passing it on to Sweet. Saying that Fowler was his problem alone, Green warns the brothers to stay out and let him handle Fowler and then they will work together on Sweet. After confronting Fowler at a bar, Green’s luck runs out as Fowler shoots and kills Green.

Truly on their own, the now three brothers devise a plan to buy Victor Sweet off with the $400,000 from their mother’s life insurance. The first phase of the plan involved contacting Evan (who was a Union friend of Jeremiah), and getting Sweet to agree to accept the money. When Sweet accepts, Angel sets off for Fowler’s. Arriving at Fowler’s, he places a plastic bag over his head, informing him he has four minutes to live. He then phones Bobby and Jeremiah and tells them he has captured Fowler and Bobby tells Jeremiah to go meet Sweet. While this is occurring, Angel’s girlfriend, Sophie, heads to the police station, where she tells the police that her boyfriend is going to kill a cop. The police then head for Fowler’s in full force. Before the four minutes runs out, Fowler rips the bag off his head. With a gun pointed to his head, Fowler admits to Angel he killed Lt. Green, but no one would believe a criminal like Angel. Hearing the sirens in the distance, Fowler thinks they are coming for Angel, until Angel removes his jacket showing a wire. Pointing to an outside van, Angel claims the whole conversation was taped. Knowing his time is near, Fowler attacks Angel and easily recovers Angel’s gun. Using Angel as a hostage, Fowler tells the police to back off. At this point we learn that the van was not an actual surveillance vehicle, nor was the wire recording. It was merely a clever plan (which explains why Angel allowed himself to be overtaken so easily), to prove to the cops that Fowler was corrupt. When Fowler opens fire on the officers, the officers return fire and kill Fowler.

Jeremiah then meets with Sweet on a frozen lake (most likely Lake Saint Clair). After Victor Sweet’s arrival, though, it is revealed that while waiting for Sweet, Jeremiah and Evan have convinced Sweet’s men, whom Sweet treats very poorly, to abandon Sweet and come back to work for Evan. When Sweet then asks who will challenge him to a climatically necessary fight, out of the tundric white emerges Bobby. Bobby and Sweet have a fistfight, in the course of which Bobby defeats Sweet, and renders him unconscious, however no doubt is left as to his fate after he is dropped in a hole carved into the ice.

The three brothers, now in police custody, are brutalized in an attempt to make them confess to the murder of Victor Sweet. The cops again use the line “your hair sample was taken from the body,” but the brothers have learned from experience. Using the same alibi of “having sex with your wife”, the brothers are finally released, and set about the work of repairing their mother’s house, which has been so terribly damaged by the firefight which took Jack’s life. Angel goes to hang out with his girlfriend while Jerry goes in with his family. As Bobby is left alone he sees his mother standing on the steps. She says its always nice to see him and asks if he would be staying for a while this time. He smiles and says he’s thinking about it, to which she smiles and responds “Oh, Bobby.” Then he goes in the house.


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