"A Man Apart" is a great title, intriguing and symbolic. It deserves a better movie. Owing quite a lot to 2002's "Collateral Damage
," which has a very similar premise, the film's one mark of superiority over the latter is that Vin Diesel (2002's "XXX
") does a much more convincing job of emoting loss than Arnold Schwarzenegger ever could. The rest of "A Man Apart" is cliche-ridden and thoroughly disposable, a revenge tale that tries to act smarter than it really is, and ends up embarrassing itself in the process.
When DEA agent Sean Vetter (Vin Diesel) captures and arrests powerful drug lord Meno Lucero (Geno Silva) at a Tijuana nightclub, and then returns home to his loving wife, Stacy (Jacqueline Obradors), she might as well be wearing a neon sign that says, "Victim." Sure enough, Stacy is violently slain soon after in their California seaside home, and Sean is sure that Meno's henchmen are behind the crime. Along with partner Demetrius (Larenz Tate), Sean takes the matter into his own hands.
Tales of revenge are far from a new and original genre, and so in order for them to be at all fun, they require a down-and-dirty, politically incorrect tone that signals all bets are off. Directed by F. Gary Gray (1998's "The Negotiator") as if his heart wasn't in the project (understandable, one must admit), "A Man Apart" offers up its fair share of violence and action, but then severely wimps out on its ending. Fortunately, it didn't have much going for it before the lame, twisty closing moments.
Filmed before "XXX
" and having sat on the shelf for over a year, Vin Diesel is clearly above the material here. As Sean Vetter, he broods his way through every scene, constantly smoking and looking angry to show his discontent. After one or two effective moments following the discovery that his beloved wife is dead, Diesel is given jarringly little of interest to do or say. And when he finally gets his chance at the end to seek the bloody vengeance he has been breathlessly pursuing, the film recoils into lame "better-than-thou" hierarchy.
The tired screenplay by Christian Gudegast and Paul Scheuring is strictly of the bargain-basement variety, only popping to life when scene-stealer Timothy Olyphant (2003's "Dreamcatcher
") appears as the smarmy Hollywood Jack, a man in cahoots with the drug lord Meno. Olyphant adds more quirky, funny energy to his fleeting moments of screen time than the rest of the lead participants do combined.
"A Man Apart" is dreary and stripped of any sort of suspense or entertainment value. For Vin Diesel fans, his very appearance may be enough to sate their appetite, but even they will recognize he is worthy of better. As for those looking for mindless action and excitement, they will be sorely disappointed by its overall lack of either. "A Man Apart" is a cheerless affair for pretty much anyone.