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A Man Apart

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Vin Diesel rose to fame as a charismatic character actor who combined a hard-boiled presence with a bodybuilder's physique. In Pitch Black, Saving Private Ryan, and The Fast And The Furious, Diesel was a little like Robert Mitchum in Lou Ferrigno's body. It's depressing, but not surprising, that the sordid and familiar A Man Apart muffles all that makes the actor fun to watch, essentially turning him into Steven Seagal. A violent, simplistic revenge thriller, the film casts Diesel as a dedicated and efficient DEA agent who shares with his beautiful, loving wife the sort of comically overwrought wedded bliss that exists in action movies solely for the sake of being destroyed. Sure enough, when Diesel busts a notorious drug dealer, the bad guys strike back by killing his wife. Enraged, he goes bucking for revenge, a journey that takes him on a guided tour of action-movie clichés, from the obligatory strip-club scene to the point where the hero's renegade actions force him to turn in his badge. Diesel adequately scowls his way through a role that only calls for a single, constantly repeated note, but he seems uncomfortable with the orgy of hood slang he's required to spout during one of the film's worst scenes. Music-video veteran F. Gary Gray (Friday, Set It Off, The Negotiator) takes the road continually traveled by emphasizing flash over coherence and style over character, resulting in a film that sometimes suggests Traffic remade as a brainless action thriller. Stuck in a film that squanders A-movie resources on a direct-to-video-level script, Diesel has taken another huge step toward becoming just another action figure.