ANTWONE FISHER, based on a true story, is a quietly powerful and naturally
funny film about a young man dealing with the adult anger problems that a
lifetime of childhood abuse has caused him. The picture is an impressive
directorial debut by last year's Oscar winning actor, Denzel Washington
(TRAINING DAY). Washington, in a warm and affecting performance, costars as
Jerome Davenport, the Navy psychiatrist who is given three sessions to treat
what seems to be the untreatable Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke). Luke's acting
is almost up to that of the master, Washington.
When we meet Fisher, he is assaulting a non-commissioned officer in the
restroom. Fisher is a Roman candle ready to ignite at the slightest
provocation, real or imagined. Although his clock will run out after the
standard three sessions with the doctor, Davenport doesn't start counting
until Fisher starts talking, which he refuses to do. This leads to a long
series of meetings in which Davenport catches up on his paperwork as Fisher
sits stoically on the sofa. The doctor is his only hope. Fisher has gotten
in trouble before so his skipper will be happy to drum him out of the
service if the doctor will just give him a bad report.
Eventually Fisher does open up, and it is an amazing and frightening story
that he tells, which we witness in frequent flashbacks. He was born in the
Ohio State Correctional Facility for Women and never saw his mother again.
His father was murdered by one of his girlfriends two months before Fisher
was born. After his birth, he was sent to a foster home where he was tied
up and beaten and worse, which mentally scarred him forever.
The simple but rich story has some interesting subplots as well. As Fisher
comes to know and cope with his demons, he falls in love with Cheryl Smolley
(Joy Bryant), a sailor who works at the base's gift shop. In another, the
doctor has some mysterious problems at home with his lovely and supporting
wife, Berta (Salli Richardson). The doctor appears to be in need of a
The movie's ending may be a bit pat -- and a tad sappy -- for some, but this
is based on a true story. Expect a few tears of joy in the audience. And
expect to see this film showing up on some lists of the year's best films.
ANTWONE FISHER runs 1:53. It is rated PG-13 for "violence, language and
mature thematic material involving child abuse" and would be acceptable for
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes