Wanted. Due to impending retirements, we are in immediate need of a Hollywood action hero. Must be able to shoot large weapons, have big muscles and make everyone feel safe in these times of international turmoil and economic uncertainty. The ability to appeal to all demographics is mandatory. Skills in delivering cheesy one-liners and making up for a bad script are definite assets. People with the first names Arnold or Sylvester need not apply.
And so goes the rise of Vin Diesel from bit player in Saving Private Ryan to one of the most hyped superstars in the industry today. But how much longer are we going to wait for a genuinely good action vehicle from him before the Diesel power buckles under the same hype that made him a $20-million man? Yes, I did like XXX for what it was and wanted to be: a mindless adrenaline rush. But lightning is going to have to strike more than once to make the smooth talker a draw. Knockaround Guys was an exercise in torture. Sure it sat in the vault for a long time and was probably only released because of Diesel’s new-found fame, but it was still excruciating. Now comes A Man Apart, which despite an interesting take on the role of a tough guy, is a boring and visually annoying rouge cop story.
Diesel plays Sean Vetter, an elite uncover narcotics officer who gets his edge from being a former street thug. After being the hero in a career-defining bust of Meno (Geno Silva), one of Columbia’s most powerful drug lords, in Mexico, Vetter is heralded for his brave work even if it did involve some shady tactics. But hey, when you’re playing against people who don’t play by the rules, you don’t have to abide by them yourself. That’s the rule of movies where the law isn’t defined by black and white. But without rules you have anarchy and that anarchy hits Vetter at home in the form of a night-time ambush that leaves our hero in a coma, his beach-side bungalow in shambles and his beautiful wife dead. With that Vetter takes matters into his own hands, looking for revenge on a faceless and unknown villain named Diablo who is apparently making waves in taking over where Meno left off.
The role of the action hero is one of protector. As a cop, Vetter’s job is to protect the streets. As a husband, it’s also his job to protect his family. Unable to do so, Vetter has failed on a personal level. Revenge is hardly anything new as a plot driver, especially when you look up and down the resume of Steven Segal, A Man Apart does take it one step further. From a strictly emotional standpoint, more grief is shed when someone is unable to do anything to help their own family than it is to fail a large group of strangers. You have a connection to a loved one but only compassion, if that, for faces in a crowd. We witness as Diesel’s Vetter descends into such a personal Hell filled with regret, tears, helpless and questioning. But if you can’t overcome the questions that have no answers, retribution takes over and blurs your judgement. A Man Apart finds the balance between grieving and revenge. As a result, Vetter is a rounded hero.
But once you get past the facade of Diesel going against the expectations of a tough guy, you’re left with a film that’s marred with little else. Vetter’s jailhouse interactions with Meno reek of a bad Silence of the Lambs rip-off minus the engrossing dialogue and frightful setting shared by Clarice and Dr. Lector. And as the truth about Diablo begins to unravel, so too does any semblance of common sense. It’s as though director F. Gary Gray (Friday) thought he was being smart by introducing a psychological thriller angle with some nonsensical, albeit predictable, twists along the way.
It just goes to remind us that behind every good super hero there has to be a good creator. Without one, all the “Entertainment Weekly” covers and junket interviews won’t be able to keep said hero in the public’s interest.
A Man Apart Gallery