Preview by: Jack Foley
FRESH from his history-making success at last years Oscars
ceremony (when he became the first black actor to be awarded the
Best Actor honour for his role in Training
Day), Denzel Washington is earning yet more acclaim for his
latest project, Antwone Fisher, which marks his first film as
Based on Antwone Fisher's autobiography, Finding Fish,
the film is a true story about an angry Navy sailor, Antwone Fisher,
on the verge of being booted out for repeated fights, who eventually
turns his life around with the guidance of a Navy psychiatrist
(played by Washington himself). The change of direction prompts
Fisher to search for the family that abandoned him as a baby.
Newcomer Derek Luke stars as the eponymous sailor in what has
been described by many critics as one of the breakthrough performances
of last year (the film opened in December in the States). Yet
the story of how he came to be cast is almost as remarkable as
the one depicted on-screen.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Luke was discovered working
in a gift shop on the Sony Pictures lot by Antwone Fisher himself.
The former sailor turned screenwriter had been working on the
lot, himself, as a security guard, when he popped into the gift
shop to make a purchase.
Fisher subsequently brought Luke to the attention of the film's
producers - including Washington, Randa Haines and Todd Black
- who met with him several times, before Black and Washington
then surprised Luke by visiting him at the gift shop to offer
him the coveted role (which had also been tipped for Will Smith).
The subsequent film, which is being released in the UK on March
7, is being talked about as a potential Oscar contender, for both
Luke and Washington, in the actor and director stakes - though
whether it has the clout to muscle out Oscar favourites, such
as The Hours, Gangs
of New York and About
Schmidt, remains to be seen.
The reviews from America tended towards the positive, even though
a few found fault. Hollywood Reporter, for instance, felt
that without Washington's involvement, Antwone Fisher is
probably movie-of-the-week fare, while Slant Magazine
referred to it as emotionally uplifting and inspiring in
the most obnoxiously genial ways imaginable.
The Onions A.V. Club went one worse, meanwhile,
describing it as a burbling morass of clichés,
while Village Voice felt that everything - even life
on an aircraft carrier - is sentimentalised.
But, generally, the notices veered towards the positive, with
even those that were mixed finding something to praise. The New
York Daily News, for example, awarded it two and a half out
of four and said that if you like a good holiday cry at
the movies, Antwone Fisher will deliver. But don't look for any
Better still was Film Journal International, which hailed
Washingtons skill as director, stating that the film is
so beautifully acted and directed, it's clear that Washington
most certainly has a new career ahead of him if he so chooses.
Likewise, FilmCritic.com, which awarded it four out of
five, and wrote that it is uniformly well-performed and
blessed with a spotless screenplay.
The New York Times felt that it leaves you feeling
released, enlightened and in deeper touch with humanity,
while Rolling Stone referred to it as a solid piece
of craftsmanship. Reel.com stated, simply, that it
is moving and empowering.
The New York Post, meanwhile, led the Oscar predictions,
stating that it is an Oscar-worthy, emotionally honest,
feel-good saga, while Variety stated that it is crafted
with the same measured intensity and quiet authority found in
his best onscreen work, Denzel Washington's debut behind the camera,
Antwone Fisher, is an emotionally charged true-life story of one
man's tenacity and eventual redemption.
Entertainment Weekly, meanwhile, concludes this overview
by stating that Washington, the director, couldn't have
made a smarter choice for the title role - or chosen a more appropriate
project to make his own, awarding it a B and concluding
that even though they remained dry-eyed, a salute is in