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'Man Apart, A'

Vin Diesel is out for revenge in "A Man Apart."

Friday, April 04, 2003

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

We get to watch Vin Diesel suffer in the title role of "A Man Apart," and I'm not just referring to his gunshot wounds, his fits of anger or his attempts to wrap his mouth around the dialogue without spitting marbles.

'A Man Apart'

RATING: R for strong graphic violence, language, drug content and sexuality.

STARRING: Vin Diesel, Larenz Tate, Timothy Olyphant.

DIRECTOR: F. Gary Gray.

WEB SITE: www.amanapartmovie.com


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No, I'm talking about real, honest-to-God emotional pain, and darned if Diesel doesn't twist his hangdog features into a reasonable rendering of torment.

He plays drug enforcement agent Sean Vetter, whose wife (Jacqueline Obradors) is killed in a botched attempt on his life. She was his guiding star, the one he credits with turning him from gangbanger to good guy.

Her death makes him a loose cannon as he and his colleagues search for the man believed responsible. Diablo is filling the vacuum in the drug trade left when Vetter and his partner, Demetrius Hicks (Larenz Tate), help Mexican authorities arrest a drug lord named Lucero (Geno Silva).

It doesn't take much to send Sean off the deep end. He flips during a stakeout of a suspect named Hollywood Jack Slayton (Timothy Olyphant). He precipitates a firefight while making an undercover buy. When, inevitably, his boss tells him to chill for a while and makes him turn in his badge, he assembles his old gangbanging buddies and wreaks havoc.

His thirst for revenge not only endangers the mission, it results in unnecessary deaths on both sides. He doesn't seem to care that Hicks will jeopardize his own marriage -- and his life -- if he helps Sean.

As Lucero tells him, to catch a monster, you must become a monster yourself.

The movie benefits from its grim world view, Jack N. Green's dark but distinctive cinematography and director F. Gary Gray's eye for a striking image and the tough urban environments where most of the action takes place.

But, at heart, it is just the latest in a long line of revenge movies featuring large, angry men who let their fists and guns do the talking. The movie sets up a moral quagmire for Vetter and then sidesteps it. Guys like this (Charles Bronson serves as the model in his "Death Wish" films) are not bothered by such dilemmas. They simply ask, "What would you do if it was your wife?"

"A Man Apart" and movies like it offer the opportunity for vicarious fantasy writ large with cars that explode 15 feet into the air, firearms that look like power tools, pitched gun battles in which everyone including the little old lady on the park bench has an automatic weapon. And, of course, Sean lives in a beach house no honest cop could afford.

Add an anticlimactic ending and the obligatory gratuitous female nudity and it becomes apparent "A Man Apart" is old wine in a new bottle that someone will likely shoot into pieces.

Ron Weiskind can be reached at rweiskind@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.

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