Man Apart, A

Reviewed By Erik Childress
Posted 04/04/03 05:09:32

"From Who? Stallone? Think again."
1 stars (Total Crap)

He’s a cop on the edge. This time it’s personal. Vin Diesel IS… Pick a tagline or invent your own because it would be the only thing new coming out of this film. New Line must be wondering how they picked the Queen of Spades of Diesel’s career. Between "Knockaround Guys" and this, not only are they having trouble getting them released but their combined totals are unlikely to match the opening weekends of "The Fast and the Furious" or "XXX". The avenging cop is something that can work within the confines of a bigger canvas, but it amazes me that screenwriters can still get paid for a template that wore out its welcome in the 80s and early 90s with the likes of Seagal and Stallone. There’s an egg timer set on Diesel’s welcome. Or did it already expire?

Diesel plays DEA agent Sean Vetter who is revelling in the biggest bust of his career with drug kingpin Meno Lucero (Geno Silva). He is happy, throwing parties. His department is happy. His lovely wife (Jacqueline Obradors) adores him. Which means she’s not going to live past the next scene. Calling the people who ambush Sean’s house assassins is like calling Ron Jeremy a gynecologist. They sneak up and then spray (bullets) everywhere and in true Stallone fashion, Sean is hit in the gut but doesn’t feel a thing until the action sequence is over.

Sean isn’t happy anymore. To make matters worse, in true evil dictator fashion someone is picking up where Meno left off. The mysterious El Diablo is making a name for himself. Was he responsible for the death of Sean’s wife? After a breakthrough to Meno in prison Sean is told that “to catch a monster, you must become a monster.” Memo to Meno: Thanks for the advice and spelling out the theme of the movie for us. It doesn’t help when the actor required to become that monster emits less range than Lou Ferrigno in green makeup. In the beginning, Diesel talks low and gravelly, speaks few words and has a smile on his face. After his wife is killed, Diesel talks low and gravelly, speaks few words, but without the smile. My dog has more facial expressions than that and puts out less crap than Diesel does.

In fairness to Vin, the script he’s saddled with doesn’t really require more than happy and less-happy character arcs. Only Timothy Olyphant as a cocky drug pusher and Larenz Tate as Sean’s (obligatory, cautious, but loyal) partner breathe any kind of life into it. Which is welcome, because you would have to put a mirror under Diesel’s nose to see if HE were breathing. The action sequences by director F. Gary Gray are so poorly constructed that during one major shootout, I couldn’t tell who was on who’s side. Are they undercover cops or bad guys? Should we applaud or scoff? Screenwriters Paul Scheuring and Christian Gudegast (son of Young and the Restless star Eric Braeden) have murked up the final act so much that in the end I had no idea who El Diablo was supposed to be. If it turns out to be who I thought it was in what the editors tried to comprehend with what feels like a reshot ending, then the plot makes less sense than Basic. They might as well have just made it Kehoe again from the 48 Hrs. sequel.

Is it some kind of cruel rite of passage to take the new action star on the block and saddle him with a personal, on-the-edge revenge picture? Let’s see if his career can survive that and then we’ll give him his stripes. I’m sure at some point Diesel was convinced that this script was “character driven” that “set it apart” from the usual crop of revenge actioners. But anyone who can be convinced of that has no business headlining movies in the first place. Stallone’s last two movies went straight-to-video. If Diesel starts making comedies with singers, working with first-time directors a lot and runs out of sequels, then what’s left to set him apart?

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