out of Five
Running time: 120
Worthy, but dull drama – Washington clearly wanted to make Good Will Hunting, but has made Finding Forrester instead…
Antwone Fisher is based on the autobiographical novel Finding Fish by, er…Antwone Fisher. The same Antwone Fisher who wrote the screenplay, produced the film and named it after himself. Frankly, why Washington chose this material for his directorial debut is anyone’s guess. He must have really, really liked Good Will Hunting.
Itchy Trigger Fist
The film stars newcomer Derek Luke as naval cadet Antwone Fisher, a young black man given to lamping people who piss him off. His violent tendencies eventually get him sent to psychiatrist Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington), who eventually gets him to open up and discuss his childhood of abuse, blah blah blah.
On top of this, we also have Antwone’s search for his family (hankies at the ready, etc), as well as the beginnings of his first relationship with girlfriend Cheryl (Joy Bryant). All of which rather suggests that if he’d got a girlfriend sooner, he might have stopped hitting people…
There’s also a sub-plot involving Davenport’s own marital problems, although this is seemingly dropped in favour of Fisher’s story, almost as if Washington was afraid of over-shadowing his co-star. Naturally, Denzel can do this type of part in his sleep, though he resists giving himself any especially showy scenes.
Safe, Worthy, Dull!
Essentially, Washington has chosen a very safe, worthy subject for his
debut. However, he puts almost no directorial stamp on it at all, not even the flourish of a fancy camera move.
The result is that, although there are one or two good scenes (the tastefully-filmed but nonetheless shocking revelation of Fisher’s home-life for example); the rest of the film is frequently rather boring.
It’s well-acted (perhaps Washington will become known as an “actor’s director”) and competently made, but there’s nothing here that you haven’t seen before and it’s less Good Will Hunting than Finding Forrester.
In short, Antwone Fisher should be filed under “worthy, but dull”. It’s not unwatchable, but you’re liable to leave the cinema with a disappointed shrug, rather than the tear-stained cheeks that Washington (and Fisher) probably intended.