Review Date: December 10, 2002
Director: Denzel Washington
Writer: Antwone Fisher
Producers: Denzel Washington, Todd Black, Randa Haines
A young, angry sailor is sent to the naval psychiatrist in order to work out some of his "anger issues". The shrink helps the man recognize some of his problems, but can't resolve all of them himself. Will the young, angry sailor be able to better grapple with the issues of his past or will he continue to punch and fight his way through life? The true story of ANTWONE FISHER, and the subsequently engaging performance and story behind Derek Luke, the actor who plays the lead, ensues.
Easily written off as yet another "TV Movie of the Week" with a dysfunctional adult attempting to better himself by working through the pains of his past, ANTWONE FISHER does rise above the familiar nature of its narrative, with two great performances from its leads, a well-developed story by first-time director Denzel Washington and a heartfelt message to which anyone should be able to soften during this holiday season. And even though I was never truly bored through this entire movie (although it could have been sharpened, were it cut down by about 10-15 minutes), the film did present many elements already covered in various other "uplifting" pictures such as MEN OF HONOR, GOOD WILL HUNTING and REMEMBER THE TITANS. Does that make it a crappy film? Of course not. The material is not handled heavy-handedly, the acting is top-notch, especially from first-timer Derek Luke and the ultimate psychological decomposition of his character, is an interesting process to witness (Luke himself worked in a Sony gift shop for 4 1/2 years before he got this monstrous starring opportunity...and delivers!). Will the movie blow you away with its insight into the human psyche? Absolutely not. Will it infuse new twists and turns into such a familiar tale? Not really. What ANTWONE FISHER does well is bring forth a wounded, lonely character, one to whom many of us might be able to relate in one way or another, draw him out with little moments, small breakthroughs and insightful flashbacks, and ultimately shine a light on the deeper, more resilient, part of all human nature. I don't think I learned anything new by watching this movie (which although "inspired" by the true story of Antwone Fisher-who wrote the screenplay, is also "fictionalized" somewhat), but I did feel good while watching it and certainly had an extra jump in my step while walking out of the theater.
Unfortunately for me, it didn't take long before I remembered how my own life still sucked the big one, at which point, I lost that extra "jump" in my "step" and proceeded to cry uncontrollably...but I'm sure the movie had something to do with that as well...I hope. Anyhoo, as for the film's emotional pull, I can't say that I was entirely absorbed by the lead character or his plights, but a couple of the more passionate scenes did "get" to me (the one in which he steps up to Ms. Tate was particularly satisfying). But ultimately, the film's biggest problem for me was that I could see everything coming a mile away. The character is a lot like an onion with his layers being peeled at every turn, and each one bringing about hardship and understanding (and tears?). Denzel also slaps a somewhat engaging subplot featuring his character and his babe-of-a-wife (nice cleavage!) into the mix, but their story, and its resolution, isn't altogether satisfactory (a one-on-one scene between the two would have been a nicer way to resolve their issue, instead of just having Washington talk about it). The lead's girlfriend was also pleasant to the eye, and did provide the story with plenty of charm and cuteness for the couple, but she too, wasn't all that developed. In the end, I can't say that this film blew me away by any means (all the Oscar talk is kind of weird to hear-although understandable since the golden statuettes are as political as they come and Denzel's a great talent and the story inspirational), but it certainly isn't a bad movie either and will likely give anyone who's feeling crappy during this time of year, some reminisce of hope for the human condition. That's right...no matter how bad you once had it...you can always find yourself, be strong and make something of yourself, as long as you believe that you can and that you actually do something about it! Fuck the naysayers...don't let "the man", or even "the woman", hold you down, folks. That's what ANTWONE told me.
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian