Retro Review: A Man Apart

Some law-enforcement guy loses his wife to the gangster-mobster-bad-guy after he gets to close or ends up arresting the big-cheese himself. Gee, have we seen this before?

In case you haven’t heard, Vin Diesel stars as Sean Vetter, a DEA agent who was an intricate part in bringing down one of the biggest druglords in US history, Meno Lucero (Gino Silva).

The only problem is that when Meno fell, a more sinister druglord “El Diablo” assumes the reigns of the drug-empire. In turn a hit is placed on Vetter.

The hit goes array and Vetter young sweet wife, Stacy (Jacqueline Obradors) ends up taking the bullet. Vetter becomes irrational and partially insane as he tries to assume his job at the DEA. Will Vetter keep it cool so he can hunt Diablo or will he end up killing himself and anyone stupid enough to help him?

You have seen this story a million times on television and on film. From the NBC series “Kingpin” to last year’s “Collateral Damage”, we know the pain and the quest of vengeance. It seems to be the favorite story to tell, lately, when it comes to druglords and cocaine. I guess they didn’t learn from Soderbergh’s “Traffic” which is by far the best film on the topic.

One of the warning signs a film is headed for disaster is when it has been sitting on the shelf for over 2 years. This was made before Diesel was “XXX” or a street thug in “Fast & the Furious”. The film’s director, F. Gary Gray had the surprise 1998 hit, “The Negotiator” under his belt and the failed TV series “Ryan Caulfield: Year One”.

If you look back two years and take this film in the context of that time then you can see that it was a film that reflected the time.

It was set to debut after “Traffic” when druglord stories were hip in Hollywood and before “Collateral Damage”. Then in 2001, the world changed with 9/11 and we seem to have forgotten about druglord stories and what they meant to us before 9/11. Its amazing how much can change in so little time.

The film itself feels quite dated. You can see Vin Diesel and the same kind of charisma he had before he hit it big. You can see F. Gary Gray’s precise framing and focusing on the man instead of the mission. But I found myself almost bored to tears because as an audience member I really didn’t care. It was hard to focus on the film when CNN war coverage is much more mind-numbing.

Do we really care about anyone on screen? And if so do we want to after sifting through the film’s mind-dumbing melodrama.

The film is a 96 minute action flick that feels like a 4 ½ hour marathon. Do we really need a gritty-drama about DEA and cocaine druglords at this time in our lives?

The film’s hi-lite is probably one of the longest and bloodiest street-gun battles I have seen since Michael Mann’s “Heat”. That scene alone is very riveting but comes off in poor taste given what’s going on in our everyday lives.

For me it was desperately hard to get through this film. I had never been so bored in an action film in all my life.

1.5 out of 5

So Says the Soothsayer.

Written: April 7, 2003

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