Antwone Fisher  (2002)


Starring: Derek Luke, Denzel Washington, Joy Bryant
Denzel Washington

Rating: PG-13

Studio: Fox Searchlight

Release Date: 5.20.03

Review Posted: 5.20.03

Spoilers: Minor


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




Inspired by the true life experiences of its title character, Antwone Fisher tells the compelling story of a troubled sailor (Luke) who is ordered to see a naval psychiatrist (Washington) about his volatile temper. Little does he know that his first step into the doctor's office will lead him on a remarkable emotional journey to confront his painful past – and connect with the family the never knew.




Antwone Fisher is inspirational and emotional, but something is missing somewhere in-between. I guess the most logical factor is characterization. Antwone Fisher is a real person and since he also wrote the script we know who he is and where he comes from. However, supporting characters like Washington’s Davenport or Joy Bryant’s Cheryl, Fisher’s love interest who apparently is not based on an actual person, but perhaps a combination of more than a few people, seem underwritten. Despite such flaws, the performances are very good. Washington adds his signature performance to the film he also directed. In one or two instances, however, his presence seemed too imposed. Bryant is gorgeous, very energetic and develops immediate chemistry with Derek Luke. Luke is a real find here as his performance goes different places and elicits realistic emotional responses; anger, sadness, love, excitement, spirit, etc.


Washington’s debut as a director is very good and the material serves him well. The material is heartfelt and important. Despite some indications of added dramatic effect, the script handles flashbacks carefully and introduces them in important times of the story. The film flows a little too slow, especially in its second act. It almost appears like the script’s structure jumps the second act. Surely, the script is not conventional in nature considering Antwone Fisher’s life story. The third act is concerned with Antwone finding his birth mother and family, the film’s rewarding scenes coming together here quite nicely, including a welcome and dinner scene with family members—however, the question might be asked, "how did everyone get there so quick?" The answer might be "dramatic effect." Some areas of the script include sentimental values, but the inspirational nature of the story deflects most of those comments. All in all, Antwone Fisher is a great showcase of character (Antwone), talent and acting, despite some minor difficulties.


The Video


20th Century Fox presents Antwone Fisher in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer looks very generous and bright. The color palette are vibrant and fleshed out nicely. Color detail is sharp, but not always consistent. I noticed some dirt on the print in a few occasions, but nothing that affects the viewing experience. Dark tones are handled fine, but they hardly exist since most of Antwone Fisher takes place in daylight. Black level is also fine, but not excessive. Even though the film carries a few minor problems, the video presentation is pretty good.


The Audio


Antwone Fisher is available in English Dolby Digital 5.1 and generally sounds very good. Mychael Danna’s score is very effective, but at times goes under the radar. Dialog is crisp and clear. Sound design lacks material and punch. Much of the dialog is concentrated on the front speakers. Rear speakers come to life and create surround usage, but it is not consistent. Nevertheless, Antwone Fisher offers a nice audio presentation. You can also select to view the film in French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital Surround.


The Extras


Commentary By Denzel Washington and Producer Todd Black – Their comments are not limited to screen-specific issues, including a discussion about the cooperativeness of the Navy, the casting and story of Antwone Fisher, defining a few making terms, reflecting on the production, etc. Washington and Black keep this track fresh, informative and, above all, conversational throughout. If you like the film, this commentary is definitely for you.

Meeting Antwone Fisher Featurette (~14 mins) – The title makes this interview-driven featurette pretty self-explanatory. Mr. Fisher tells his story and reflects on a few aspects of the film and his life while. You’ll find some additional information about him here, but not much more than that. Denzel Washington, Todd Black and a few others provide snippets of information in interviews conducted on the set or at the film’s press junket.

The Making of Antwone Fisher Featurette (~22 mins) – Using the same interviews, only different snippets and sections, this featurette provides countless interviews, now including Derek Luke and Joy Bryant, and some behind-the-scenes footage. The material is generally the same here as in the featurette above, but I guess distinctions are apparent. Not too much value here unless you absolutely loved the film or care to listen to people talk.

Hollywood and the Navy Featurette (~5 mins) – Again, the material seems to be the same, but the focus here is on the Navy and its cooperation with the production of Antwone Fisher. The start date was scheduled for September 10, 2001, but the Navy was fully operational and cooperative even after 9/11. We get interviews here as well.


I like the idea of the interviews broken down into three separate featurettes, but it is too obvious and the interviews did not offer enough material to sustain the combined running time of 41 minutes. A few deleted scenes, which I’m sure exist, would be a nice addition to this release.


There are trailers for In America, Master and Commander, Le Divorce and Drumline. Antwone Fisher’s theatrical trailer is missing, however. There are no DVD-ROM features on this disc. You can select to view the film with optional English and Spanish subtitles. The DVD’s menus are not animated. The 120-minute feature is organized into thirty-two chapters.




Antwone Fisher didn’t perform as well at the box office, but the home video forum should give enough people the chance to see a good and inspirational film as it seems they come along only at certain times of the year. The DVD offers some good video and audio quality and the special features are partially adhering. Antwone Fisher comes recommended.









OVERALL (not an average)







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