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Antwone Fisher

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Antwone Fisher

Starring: Denzel Washington, Derek Luke
Director: Denzel Washington
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: January 2003
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: De'Angelo Wilson, Yolonda Ross, Stephen Snedden, Viola Davis

Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

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 doctor himself.

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 teenagers.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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