A Man Apart

“A Man Apart,” the new but at least two-year-old film starring Vin Diesel, is a throwback to action-revenge thrillers like “Deathwish” and “Dirty Harry.” A story about a drug enforcement agent pushed over the edge after the murder of his wife, “A Man Apart” would be more at home playing on a drive-in movie screen, where audiences could enjoy a couple of brews and a joint to slip into the mindless action and chaos.

Drugs may be bad, but they’re not as bad as “A Man Apart,” a film that requires some sort of artificial stimulant to fully appreciate its exploitative value. Made by and for the “kick stand” crowd (women won’t buy any of this), “A Man Apart” was held back from release so that the studio could take advantage of Diesel’s status after last summer’s “XXX.” No amount of good will can make up for this dunderhead exercise in the obvious, where every cliche is not only optioned, but reinforced.

“Traffic” for teenage boys with attention deficit order, “A Man Apart” puts Diesel on a pedestal, playing larger-than-life agent Sean Vetter, who has spent the last seven years tracking down notorious cartel kingpin “Memo” Lucero (Geno Silva). When he’s not hot on the trail of Memo, Vetter enjoys the company of wife Stacy (Jacqueline Obrados) and the comfort of their Malibu beach home.

All that changes after Vetter and fellow agent Demetrius Hicks (Larenz Hicks) finally catch up with Memo, arresting him in a bold and dangerous bust. With Memo behind bars, a new figure named Diablo emerges on the Baja drug scene, whose first act is to kill Vetter. Since Diesel’s name is above the title, you just know Stacy is toast. After her murder, Vetter becomes a monster in order to catch the monster that ordered the hit.

That means going above and beyond the law, an act that is at first tolerated and then condemned by his superiors, who order Vetter to turn in his badge. Oh, the disgrace. That doesn’t stop Vetter from working his way through the cartel until he finds Diablo. That means lots of broken bones, torture, chases, explosions, all presented as slick entertainment by director F. Gary Gray. Not nearly as slick is the screenplay by Christian Gudegast and Paul Scheuring, which feels like a cut and paste job, and these guys were obviously eating the paste.

None of the characters in “A Man Apart” are real. They’re one-dimensional chess pieces that the director scurries across a game board, never once giving thought as to how to end the game. For all its rumble and roar, the film ends with a whimper, a moralistic attempt to humanize the monster that Vetter has become.

Films about drugs and drug cartels have become so routine that “A Man Apart” feels dated. It’s standard action with an anti-hero who displays about as much emotion as a brick wall. Suffering through the loss of his character’s wife, Diesel forfeits every opportunity to do anything but sulk. His goatee evokes more sympathy. The rest of the cast is just along for the ride, extra baggage to help Diesel make the trip.

To be fair, director Gray does manage to maintain a frenetic pace, but it’s not enough to outrun the by-the-numbers script that can only count to one.

Diesel-driven “A Man Apart” runs out of gas


Vin Diesel, Larenz Tate, Timothy Olyphant, Jacqueline Obradors, Geno Silva, Juan Fernandez. Directed by F. Gary Gray. Rated R. 110 Minutes.


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