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Antwone Fisher

The U.S. Navy is all that Seaman Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke) has — the only problem is that occasionally it seems he doesn't want it. An orphaned child, Antwone has made some friends while serving his country, but he's often quick to anger, and unafraid to lay a haymaker on anyone who gets in his face. Thus, after attacking a ranking sailor in the showers (for a perceived racial slight), Antwone is given due punishment, but also assigned to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Fisher plays along, but only so far — he agrees to see Navy Dr. Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington), but he won't talk. It's no matter to Dr. Davenport, who simply allows the young man to silently sit in his office for an hour every week until boredom — and perhaps a need to talk — wins out. Fisher then recounts his life as an abused child, gaining the courage from Davenport to even ask a girl (Joy Bryant) out on a date. But when Antwone's mandated sessions are over, Davenport realizes that his job of mentoring the young man has just begun. The directional debut of Denzel Washington (who also co-produced), and based on a true story, Antwone Fisher comes across as a sort of Good Will Hunting in a military environment, particularly with its story of a withdrawn, defensive young man who has difficulty forming meaningful relationships with anyone, and thus comes under the tutelage of a persistent, well-meaning psychiatrist. However, where Hunting didn't get into many details of its lead character's abusive past, Antwone Fisher functions via a series of flashbacks that contexualize present-day events. In one sense, the value of these flashbacks is questionable — the story could contain more power if the viewers simply know that Antwone suffered an abuse of some sort, allowing the plot to remain focused in the present-day, and on this very charismatic leading man. In any event, Antwone reveals his history of emotional and physical punishment, as well as sexual molestation, to Dr. Davenport, which leads to a long-overdue journey home as he tracks down his mother in order to put the circumstances of his birth to rest. Fisher functions as a bit of a male weepie, and it's likely that many guy viewers will be engaged (if not moved) by Antwone's struggle to deal with the emotional conflict that exists between external appearances and some deep-seeded internal anxieties. Washington does a notable job for his first time in the director's chair, delivering some thoughtful compositions and transitions, and it's clear that he's generous with his actors. And the script — by Antwone Fisher himself — admittedly plays a little loose with the facts of his life, but it still communicates a simple, heartfelt tale. However, the real discovery of the film is Derek Luke, who sufficiently impressed Washington and the studio to get the lead part as a total unknown — he delivers a remarkable range of authentic emotions, always appearing natural in a part that asks for more than one note. One can hope this role will lead to bigger, better things. Fox's DVD release of Antwone Fisher features a clean anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Features include a commentary with Washington and co-producer Todd Black — the track is appropriately subdued, and Washington reveals the directors who have had an influence on him over the years, including Norman Jewison and Spike Lee. Also on board are the featurettes "Meeting Antwone Fisher," "The Making of Antwone Fisher," and "Hollywood and the Navy." Trailers, keep-case.
—JJB



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