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Antwone Fisher (2002)

Fight fear. Face truth. Embrace life.

Directed by:

Denzel Washington

Seth Holt

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 120 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United Kingdom, United States

Antwone Fisher, don’tcha know, is a real bloke. He wrote and co-produced this film which, in case you hadn’t deduced from the title, is based on his own life – though how much of it is fictionalised is something we can only really take a wild guess at. That’s not to say that slipping in a few porkies here and there is any sort of crime, provided the end product is a film that’s worth watching – and this one, I’m happy to say, very much is.

Derek Luke makes a sparkling debut as Navy man Antwone, who’s sent to see shrink Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington) after giving one of his superior officers a good smack in the chops. Sensing that all is not ship-shape, Jerome gradually breaks through Antwone’s stubborn exterior and coaxes out of him tales of a tortured childhood. And, as Antwone tells of being shunted between orphanages, foster homes, reform schools and shelters in his early years, the two begin to form a remarkable bond.

Washington, making his directorial debut, displays a refreshingly simplistic approach to story-telling. Originality isn’t one of the tale’s strong points, but it’s told and performed so well that it stands out from the many others to have covered similar ground. His own performance in the film is confident and reliable as ever, but he’s over-shadowed on-screen by a hugely-convincing Luke making his first ever big screen appearance.

The rest of the cast is also largely unknown but, like Luke, do themselves proud with their handling of the subject matter. Joy Bryant is fantastic as Antwone’s blossoming love interest, with her and Luke displaying the kind of natural on-screen chemistry rarely seen among many far better-known players. Young Malcolm David Kelley is also deserving of a mention for his not-inconsiderable role as Antwone at age seven.

It’s a movie that’ll jerk a tear or three, and it’s nice to come across a drama that manages to do so without departing too far from conceivable reality. If weepies aren’t your thing then I’d normally advise staying well clear of this sort of stuff, but ‘Antwone Fisher’ handles its material so well and with such an unusually high level of dignity that I’d happily recommend it to anyone.

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It's Got: An unfamiliar cast (Denzel excepted) that’s well worth discovering.

It Needs: A co-commentary from Antwone himself would have been an interesting addition to the DVD.

DVD Extras Commentary with Denzel Washington and co-producer Todd Black, and ‘Meeting Antwone Fisher’ – which is a fairly run-of-the-mill behind-the-scenes thingy, accompanied by some ridiculously patriotic music, images of billowing US flags and random sailors standing to attention. DVD Extras Rating: 4/10

Alternatives:

Finding Forrester, Good Will Hunting, Legend of the Mummy, The Awakening, Training Day

Summary

Up-beat but not sickeningly so, this is a well paced and terrifically performed first stint in the director’s chair for Denzel Washington.

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