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A Man Apart

Two United States narcotics officers take on a Tijuana drug cartel to get retribution for the murder of one cop's wife.


A violent and gritty film, A Man Apart follows DEA agents Sean Vetter (Vin Diesel) and Demetrius Hicks (Larenz Tate) as they try to stop the drug pipeline along the US/Mexico border. After seven years of surveillance, they take down Baja California cartel kingpin Memo Lucero (Geno Silva), whose ominous last words to Vetter are, ''You have no idea what kind of mistake you are making.'' Vetter doesn't take the threat to heart--until a hail of bullets kills his wife Stacy (Jacqueline Obradors) as she sleeps. Vetter discovers the man responsible for Stacy's death is Diablo, who has stepped in to claim the Baja cartel. A grief-stricken Vetter enlists Hicks's help to avenge his wife's murder, but his personal involvement in the case clouds his judgement--and at this point, we know for certain that two things will happen. First, Vetter will be pulled off the case and second, he will go after his wife's killer without the department's authorization. When this ultimately happens, Vetter turns to the jailed Memo for help tracking down Diablo. But just when you think you have the story all figured out, it comes back at you with a twist.


A Man Apart gives Diesel a chance to play a character with more depth than, um, Zander Cage in XXX or Dominic Torreto in The Fast and the Furious. He definitely sinks his teeth into the role--a little too much. As Vetter, Diesel shares some ''tender'' moments with his on-screen wife, but the chemistry between the two is lukewarm and their oh-so-perfect marriage is too fairytale-like to buy. They drink red wine and dance on the beach at sunset (really). And as a widower, Diesel overdoes the dazed and detached thing. In one scene, Vetter beats a man to a pulp then slumps down against his car and stares vacantly into the distance, a victim of his own misbehavior. But Diesel's performance lacks sincerity. Vetter's DEA partner Hicks is played by Tate (Biker Boyz), who carves out a more grounded and representational character. Tate shapes Hicks into a multifaceted character that is tough, streetwise and sympathetic--minus the showboating. Worth an honorable mention is Timothy Olyphant (Dreamcatcher) in the role of Hollywood Jack, an obnoxious drug supplier who runs a tanning salon. This two-faced hoodlum steals some of the film's best moments.


If there is one thing that director F. Gary Gray has mastered, it is the art of making cheesy material watchable. Like Gray's last two films, The Negotiator and Set It Off, A Man Apart is a gritty urban drama that is entertaining if you allow yourself to be absorbed in the director's dynamic visual style. There is never a dull moment here, and like a trailer, it cuts from one action-packed scene to another. But if you stop to analyze what's going on or being said, corny lines are likely to pop out and cause you to laugh out loud when you're not supposed to. Imagine a line such as, ''You alone are trying to bring down a monster. As a cop, that's impossible; you must become a monster'' reverberating in your head. It's enough to distract you from the film's hair-raising violence. Not all of the dialogue is laughable, however, and there is one scene in particular that is funny and bitingly genuine, where Vetter and Hicks pump a dealer named Overdose for information. It's reminiscent of the wisecracking dialogue in Gray's 1995 directorial debut Friday.

Bottom Line

While it is a fast-paced and entertaining movie, the story, characters and dialogue will leave you feeling unfulfilled; for the most part, A Man Apart is a sequence of thrills in more need of brains than Diesel's brawn.