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New Line Home Cinema presents
"You alone, you're trying to bring down a monster. As a cop, that's impossible. You must become a monster."
DVD ReviewA Man Apart stands united with dozens of other unimaginative, formulaic action films. F. Gary Gray's pedestrian narcotics yarn possesses little style, less substance and no originality—quite a shame, considering the script gives Vin Diesel his juiciest role to date and a prime opportunity to test his acting chops. Littered with the genre's requisite gun battles, explosions and double crosses, the film adds nothing new to spark audience interest. A stale been-there-done-that odor permeates the entire enterprise, putting A Man Apart far behind others in its class.
Sure, Diesel's a hot commodity and, after the success of The Fast and the Furious and xXx, who could blame his handlers for seeking out another starring vehicle lickety-split? And while Diesel snags a meaty role, A Man Apart's weak structure can barely support his thickly muscled frame. It's almost as if the writers concocted taglines before cranking out the script, then tailored the plot to fit them. Drivel like "When they took his love...they took his life" and "Love changes a man; revenge tears him apart" accurately reflects the shallow tone and clichéd nature of the film.
Diesel plays Sean Vetter (who came up with that name?), a streetwise thug-turned-undercover-DEA officer who bags a fugitive Mexican kingpin (Geno Silva) only to see the don's cartel bump off his wife (Jacqueline Obradors) two months later. The loss cripples Sean emotionally and he vows revenge at all costs. His partner, Demetrius Hicks (Larenz Tate), worries that Sean's obsession will color his judgment and impede his abilities, but Sean refuses to listen. Soon, his out-of-control actions force Sean to relinquish his badge, but not his vendetta, and he continues stalking his prey alone.
As a gentle giant who explodes with rage on cue, Diesel displays a wide range of emotions and his performance impresses to the degree allowed by the script. It's nice to see Diesel sink his teeth into a part, especially after the cardboard daredevil he portrayed in xXx, but while his brooding presence and quiet strength anchor A Man Apart, his promising career can't withstand many more body blows like this.
Director Gray distinguished himself with The Negotiator (1998), but unfortunately Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey aren't around this time to bail him out. With lower caliber actors, the film requires a stronger directorial presence to succeed, especially with a limp and predictable screenplay. Sadly, Gray seems content to rest on his laurels and doesn't rise to the challenge. From the first frame, A Man Apart looks like it's on autopilot. The opening title sequence directly copies The Negotiator, as does the climactic plot twist, but the action scenes in between seem forced and perfunctory—almost as if inserted by studio edict or some paperback screenplay tutorial.
You know a film is a dud when the only praiseworthy quote on the packaging comes from a TV critic in Sacramento. While A Man Apart may well provide "non-stop explosive action," the film proves once again—albeit the hard way—that a strong story is tantamount to success. Despite its heavy doses of violence and carnage, A Man Apart is just a big, bloated bore.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: Like most recent releases, the transfer for A Man Apart is generally crisp and clean, although a few annoying specks mar the opening scene. Colors are true, but the film's muted tones limit their vibrancy. Contrast, sharpness and shadow detail are all satisfactory, and only slight image enhancements could be detected. In addition to the widescreen anamorphic transfer, the disc also includes an almost identical-looking pan & scan version. That's a lot of data for a single-sided disc, so results are far from reference quality.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The DD 5.1 track features plenty of surround action, with music, ambient sounds, gunfire and explosions monopolizing the rear speakers with pleasing regularity. The atmospheric effects shine, but dialogue reproduction is surprisingly weak, with conversations muddled and at times unintelligible. I couldn't discern whether the problem was with the audio or the actors (all of whom could benefit from an elocution course), but the issue only added to my frustration with the film.
The Dolby Pro Logic track lacks the oomph of 5.1, but still offers a warm surround feel with good clarity.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Run Ronnie Run, Highwayman
7 Deleted Scenes
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Extras Review: Seven deleted scenes (without commentary) comprise the bulk of the extras. None are essential, although the final selection is especially titillating. The lack of a branching option, however, prohibits their insertion into the film. A weblink provides a rather circuitous route to the film's online site—a trip only diehard fans need make. For those who persevere, cast and crew bios, photos, video clips, interviews and a few downloads await.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsA disappointing follow-up to Vin Diesel's previous blockbusters, A Man Apart relies too heavily on star power and neglects the core elements of story, character and style that distinguish similar films. Diesel's a beefy guy, but the dead weight of A Man Apart is too much for even his broad shoulders.
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