America's love affair with deep-voiced slab o' beef Vin Diesel may hit a rocky patch with the release of 'A Man Apart,' a movie so desperately awful that it should have been sent straight to video. Then buried in a deep hole in the desert. Then covered with a 10-ton boulder.
Diesel once again fills out a T-shirt with impressive bulk as Sean Vetter, a top-notch Drug Enforcement Administration agent who pretty much single-handedly takes down a Mexican drug lord sought by the U.S. government for seven years. Afterward, all the DEA guys have a big barbecue on the beach at Vetter's oceanfront home to celebrate the bust Ñ being a DEA agent must pay really, really well, judging by Vetter's house Ñ but we know that Vetter's joy will be short-lived.
How do we know that his joy will be short-lived? Because Vetter's married. And happy. We know this because we're treated to a lot of scenes of Vetter and his beautiful wife laughing and smooching and playing and loving É the filmmakers might as well have painted a big red target on her butt.
So when Ñ surprise! Ñ shooters come to Vetter's house in the middle of the night and the beautiful wife is killed, Vetter vows vengeance. Along with his partner, the awkwardly named Demetrius Hicks (Larenz Tate), Vetter starts working the drug pipeline he knows so well, threatening people and acting tough and reciting statistics about how many tons of cocaine are smuggled into the United States each month. All of this threatening and reciting is designed to get him closer to mysterious El Diablo, the Keyser Soze-like head of the new drug cartel who, according to the nearly incomprehensible script, is somehow responsible for killing Vetter's wife.
Director F. Gary Gray's gritty direction is stylish to the point of absurdity. But all the snappy editing, whip-shot pacing, aerial shots and wobbly, handheld artiness can't disguise that his film is a crappy pastiche of Charles Bronson movies, 'The French Connection' and TV's 'Starsky and Hutch.' At one point, when Vetter squeezes a dealer for information by emptying his gun, putting a bullet in the chamber and holding the pistol to the dealer's head, Gray even steals from 'Dirty Harry.' And it's all done really badly.
Women run around half-naked purely for set dressing. Secondary characters exist only for Vetter to react to and every bad guy is a stock movie clichŽ, from Suave and Aging Drug Lord (Geno Silva) to Flamboyant Porsche-Driving Drug Dealer (Timothy Olyphant). And everything Ñ everything Ñ is tedious and complicated, with confused shootouts where you have no idea who the good guys are and an ending that's so preposterous that it literally makes no sense at all.
Released after sitting on the shelf for almost two years, 'A Man Apart' is so bad, in fact, that one expects to see the silhouettes of Mike Nelson and Crow T. Robot of 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' in the foreground making snarky comments. With Diesel's monotone voiceover intoning 'We didn't look like cops or dress like cops. É We got our edge from the street,' and actors uttering lines such as 'If I'd wanted you dead, you would be,' it's hard to suppress your own comments (and giggles), if only to help you to stay awake.