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USA 2002
Directed by
Denzel Washington
120 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Antwone Fisher

Denzel Washington’s earnest, well-meaning but overlong directorial debut hits its target in places but eventually drowns in an excess of manipulativeness.

Derek Luke plays the titular character, a troubled young African-American sailor with an anger management problem and Washington is Jerome Davenport, the Navy psychiatrist designated to assess his mental fitness who eventually propels him on a journey of self-discovery.

From the get-go with Washington taking up the part of the by-the-book-but-caring father-figure opposite Luke’s hot-headed but, of course, sensitive son, Antwone Fisher develops its redemptive story well within the orbit of Hollywood conventionality. Although initially the way the script (by the real-life Antwone Fisher) lays out the psychological issues has a certain degree of potential, particularly as it grounds them in the history of slavery, Washington packages the story over-decorously, giving Antwone an improbably hot girlfriend (Joy Bryant) and himself a gorgeous wife (Salli-Richardson-Whitfield) to whom, in a sub-plot that receives relatively scant but in some respects judiciously restrained attention, he is emotionally distant.  

Emotional disconnection and its converse, familial connectedness are the obvious concerns of the film and Washington clearly wants us to appreciate this but to acheive this he labours his point, the final act of the film in which at Davenport’s urging Antwone goes looking for the family he never had being an unrestrained wallow in Hallmark-worthy sentimentality.  




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