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This is the true story of Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke), an angry young sailor, ready to explode at any provocation. When he is sent to the naval shrink, Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington) for assessment, he locks himself in a metaphoric brig. But Davenport’s patience and big hearted response to Antwone slowly drags out of him the tragic story of his life as an abused orphan. That, and the young woman (Joy Bryant) who falls in love with him, turn his life around, but with great pain and great difficulty, sending him on a journey to find his real roots.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Antwone Fisher is a film movie-hardened critics would resist with suspicion if it weren’t a true story. It has all the elements that American studio pictures aspire to in terms of ‘elements’, from being a journey that takes our central character from a nothing to a self respecting somebody who defeats their demons. A hero who rises from hell to glory. A victim who takes control of his life. 

The fact that it’s a true story and written by the very person whose life it tells make the film impossible to dismiss as soppy, schmaltzy or manipulative. And it doesn’t matter whether some of the details may be smudged for understandable reasons of ego or the sake of a cinematic telling. The essence of the story is one of overcoming the nasty hand that fate has dealt Antwone, and doing so with courage and decency. Hard to argue with that. 

The film’s achievements are threefold: the essential details of Antwone’s journey are managed within a reasonable 2-hour time frame, creating a compact enough story with which we can engage. This is a fine combination of script and inspired direction. Secondly, Denzel Washington’s casting is perfect. Not 99% but perfect. There’s not a character, whether lead or support, that doesn’t ring true, not a face that isn’t achingly real, not an interaction that doesn’t haunt with its often painful honesty. 

One of the most emotionally charged scenes, for example, requires accurate writing, absolute emotional sincerity and deeply nuanced delivery from two actors whose characters are at a momentous confrontation with each other. This extended scene has the power to derail the whole film and it doesn’t; on the contrary, it provides the propellant for our emotional and psychological contract with the entire story and all the characters. Thirdly, the film’s craftsmanship (production design, music, cinematography and editing) are cohesive and seamlessly inspired. Derek Luke and his pretty girlfriend Joy Bryant are both riveting, Denzel Washington delivers a genuine and complex Jerome, and you’d have to be popping downers not to register significant heart activity through Antwone’s story.

Published August 14, 2003

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CAST: Denzel Washington, Derek Luke, Joy Bryant, Salli Richardson, Novella Nelson

DIRECTOR: Denzel Washington

SCRIPT: Antwone Fisher


RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16 : 9 widescreen


DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: (Rental) August 13, 2003

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