Eric D. Snider

A Man Apart

I like Vin Diesel. Heaven help me, I like Vin Diesel. There's something in his film persona that I find very entertaining. I can't explain it, really. It's like asking why chocolate tastes good: It tastes good because, well, it tastes good.

"A Man Apart," however, does not taste good. Whatever appeal Diesel normally has is watered down in this flavorless cop film that refuses to stop until it has checked off every cliché on the list.

It starts out like "Traffic," with Drug Enforcement Agency officers making busts, and a lot of locations -- San Pedro, Calif.; Tijuana, Mexico; South Central L.A. -- being identified by onscreen subtitles. Among the DEA officers is Sean Vetter (Diesel), who takes care to point out in narration that he and his teammates don't look or act like cops because they themselves used to be street thugs who have gone straight. They know how criminals used to think because they used to be criminals.

They occasionally act like criminals, too. After a lengthy exposition, Sean's doting young wife Stacy (Jacqueline Obradors) is murdered by a rising new drug lord called Diablo. This sends Sean on a path of rage and retribution, causing him to behave even less like a cop than he used to. This is a man who seems to think nothing of beating up suspects, and whose hotheadedness frequently causes arrests and busts to go awry. Granted, he's a bit worked up over the murdered-wife thing. But a man this unprofessional -- who lets his emotions get the best of him on the job this often -- should probably give serious thought to career counseling.

This movie has a scene where Sean must turn in his badge because he's a loose cannon, a guy with nothing left to lose, a one-man wrecking crew, a ticking time bomb. The presence of this scene in any film is usually a clear indication the film is going to be bad.

F. Gary Gray ("The Negotiator") directs "A Man Apart" without distinction, letting Christian Gudegast and Paul Scheuring's dull script spill onto the screen unencumbered by flair or imagination. The plot is slow-moving, to say the least, and when it does move, it's moving the way every rogue-cop movie since "Dirty Harry" has moved.

And then there's Vin Diesel. Give him credit for trying to cross over from silly action flicks like "The Fast and the Furious" and "XXX" to something with a little emotion to it. Maybe he's even capable of exhibiting some. He'll need a better story than this, though. Not even Laurence Olivier could bring depth to this derivative mess.

Grade: D

Rated R, abundant harsh profanity, a lot of nudity, loads of violence

1 hr., 50 min.

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