Man Apart, A

A Man Apart (18)

This formulaic B-grade actioner has been given a sniff of A-grade status following the rapid rise of Vin Diesel, the muscleman with a squinty eye on toppling Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone from shared top spot as action superheroes.

Given that both Arnie and Sly are pushing 60, that may not be too tough a job, but Diesel needs to do better than this humourless and listless hybrid of Lethal Weapon and Traffic.

Diesel, Hollywood’s new $20 million dollar man, is Sean Vetter, a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who gave up gang culture to be a cop. As one of an elite anti-drugs team he brings down Memo, a Mexican drugs baron and head of the biggest cartel currently shipping tons of cocaine into California.

Vetter’s life take an immediate turn for the worst when he’s targeted for a nocturnal assassination in his sun-drenched beachside home. He survives, but his wife doesn’t. In an instant, Vetter loses his cop’s law-abiding soul and transforms into a vengeance-seeking loner – the man apart of the title.

Filmed before the 007 wannabe that was xXx, A Man Apart harks back to the Eighties movies of Arnie, Sly and Co, as well as the bullet-riddled and corpse-strewn straight-to-video fare of Steven Seagal. In that respect it deserves little more than a cursory glance.

Diesel, an actor-director-writer who really needs to break away from this particular genre if he wishes to be taken seriously, plays it dead straight as Vetter. There are no gags here, no quips, no throwaway one-liners. Instead Diesel and director F. Gary Gray, the man behind The Negotiator, go straight for the jugular.

The action sequences are relentless and ultra violent. One drugs deal, set up by Vetter, turns into a shooting gallery with cops, villains and passers by caught in the crossfire. Then there’s the dealer whose pals are wiped out by a drug lord named Diablo, who laves his name carved into one victim’s back. It’s all extremely bloody and extremely nasty.

The main stumbling block on A Man Apart is its incoherent storyline and its insistence on jumping from location to location, criss-crossing California, Mexico and the border in between. Villains are the dudes in the black hats but, as in all films of this type, when the line between good and bad becomes blurred, even the good guys – Diesel et al – start to shift from white to grey.

And when it comes down to a charismatic leading man, Diesel (who also co-produced) lacks everything that it takes – at least in this particular movie. In the likes of Pitch Black and the ensemble that was Saving Private Ryan Diesel shone. In movies where he takes centre stage his inadequacies are magnified ten-fold.

What he needs is a character piece with edgy dialogue, not some anorexic thriller with delusions of grandeur. Where’s Quentin Tarantino when you need him…?

Star rating: **

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