- Cynically justifying everything from torture to cold-blooded mass murder by portraying the killers as loyal, loving sons just trying to avenge their saintly adopted mother
- Wallowing in misogyny by portraying every female but that mother as a whore, psycho, bitch, or some combination thereof
- Squandering an initially powerful premise on generic gunfights, beatdowns, car chases, and endless improvised homophobic insults
Defender: Director John Singleton
Tone of commentary: Achingly generic. Singleton seems simultaneously laid-back and upbeat, but doesn't say much that needs saying, except to viewers desperate to know which scene was shot on which day of production, where the cameras were, what song is playing in the background, and what's happening onscreen.
What went wrong: Some sequences took too long to set up and shoot, and the wintery Detroit setting was far too cold for Singleton, a California native used to kinder weather. But mostly, he seems to have had a trouble-free production, and he's cheerful about his minimal trials: Even the wry comment "At the beginning of my career, I said I'd never do any dumb car-chase movies. I ended up doing car chases…" is delivered with amusement rather than bitterness.
Comments on the cast: Tyrese Gibson couldn't always remember his lines, and Terrence Howard had "a mumbling problem," but Singleton still praises everyone—particularly Mark Wahlberg, for being "a trooper" and performing one scene on a toilet with his pants down. All four primary stars get snaps for their brilliant improvisation of brotherly banter like "Jack licks ass-crack and ball-sack."
Inevitable dash of pretension: Singleton sees the entire film as an urban Western, and repeatedly cites the better, more atmospheric movies—from High Plains Drifter to The Quiet Man—that he sees echoed in even his most mundane shot choices and plot points. But he angrily dismisses comparisons to the seeming source of Four Brothers' plot: the 1965 John Wayne feature The Sons Of Katie Elder, which he says he didn't even watch.
Commentary in a nutshell: "This is a Western for you. Boom: They're pissed, and walking."