Antoine Fuqua - A career retrospective
Feature by Jack Foley
ANTOINE Fuqua began what would be a famously eclectic career by directing music videos for the likes of Usher, Toni Braxton and Prince. The Olympus Has Fallen (2013) director has since gone on to direct some of the biggest action films in recent memory, always with style and a careful hand.
Here’s a look back at some of the director’s best work…
The Replacement Killers (1998)
Antoine Fuqua kicked off a stellar film career with the exciting, action-packed The Replacement Killers, a film which also marked the American debut of Chinese actor Chow Yun-fat (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, 2000).
Tasked with the one job that shakes his conscience, a troubled, disillusioned hit man (Yun-fat), desperately races against a ticking clock to return to China with the help of a skilled forger (Mira Sorvino, Beautiful Girls, 1996) after the crime lord he defies threatens the lives of his family. Martial arts film legend John Woo not only co-produced but also choreographed the film’s thrilling action sequences.
Fuqua’s genre-crossing next film, Bait merged comedy and action, and starred then-rising star Jamie Foxx, still riding the success of his self-titled sitcom. Foxx stars as petty thief Alvin Sanders who gets arrested for stealing shrimp and ends up sharing a cell with a man who has just stolen $42 million and double-crossed his unforgiving, hacker partner in the process.
After his cell mate suddenly dies, the feds decide to use Alvin as the bait to catch the ruthless hacker. Unfortunately for them, Alvin has something of a knack for getting himself into a variety of sticky situations and gut-busting comedy ensues.
Training Day (2001)
Fuqua’s most notable film to date not only earned rave reviews, but also garnered an Oscar for Denzel Washington, making him only the second black actor to win in the Best Actor category. An ambitious rookie cop’s (Ethan Hawke) first day on the job quickly turns into a seedy rollercoaster ride when he gets partnered with a more experienced and deeply corrupt officer (Washington).
The young cop’s ride with the proverbial devil becomes not just a fight for his life, but his soul. Ethan Hawke was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Performance.
Tears of the Sun (2003)
Fuqua followed up the success of Training Day with the harrowing war drama Tears of the Sun. The film stars Bruce Willis as a Special Ops commander who leads his team deep into the harsh jungles of Nigeria to rescue a compassionate young doctor (Monica Bellucci), a U. S. citizen by marriage.
The mission begins as planned, but takes an unexpected turn when the doctor refuses to leave without her patients, some 70 sick and injured refugees. Layered with action, heart-pounding suspense and remarkable heart, Tears of the Sun marked Fuqua as a skilled and versatile director.
King Arthur (2004)
Fuqua further proved his versatility when he delved deep into British culture and folklore for his next venture to the big screen. With King Arthur, Fuqua and the producers hoped to present a more historically accurate version of the famous legend, turning the old well-known story into a largely original film. Arthur – here a Roman commander – and his cavalry are tasked with the potentially suicidal mission of rescuing a prominent family in danger of capture by a ruthless Saxon tribe.
With British thespians Clive Owen, Stephen Dillane and Keira Knightley as Arthur, Merlin and Guinevere respectively, the film cemented Fuqua as a massively original auteur and added to his diverse resume.
Mark Wahlberg stars as Bob Lee Swagger, a first-rate sniper who emerges from a self-imposed exile when intelligence suggests the President might be the target of an assassination attempt. Presumably Swagger’s expertise is needed, but when an Ethiopian politician standing near the president is killed, Swagger is accused and a massive manhunt ensues.
Now the former Marine, aided by two unlikely accomplices, must fight to discover the truth and clear his name before the authorities catch up with him. Shooter showcases Fuqua doing what he does best: action and thrills at its very finest.
Brooklyn’s Finest (2010)
Brooklyn’s Finest brought together unlikely names Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Wesley Snipes and Ethan Hawke in a powerful crime drama about three cops at various different stages of disillusionment and even corruption, whose paths inevitably intertwine.
Here, Fuqua returns to the cop drama he does so well, tempering intense action with heartrending drama, and bringing to light the moral struggles so many cops face on a daily basis.
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
Fuqua’s latest feature stars Gerard Butler as a disgraced Secret Service agent Mike Banning, recently fallen out of favour with the President (Aaron Eckhart, Thank You For Smoking, 2005), the man he is sworn to protect and had grown to love as a friend.
When a North Korean radical attacks the White House, Banning charges to the defence for the sake of his friend and his country. Once again, Fuqua returns to his action roots in this box office smash, brimming with tension and packed with heart-pounding action sequences.
Olympus Has Fallen is released on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday, August 26, 2013