Directed By: Denzel Washington
Starring: Denzel Washington, Derek Luke, Joy Bryant
Tag line: "Antwone Fisher is at war... with himself"
Trivia: Many extras in the film were active duty U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel from various commands within the Southern California area
Denzel Washington's directorial debut, Antwone Fisher is very successful at accomplishing what it sets out to do.
The story revolves around U.S. Navy non-com Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke), who’s gotten into a number of fights with his shipmates. As a result, he’s ordered to undergo psychiatric analysis, and the doctor assigned to examine him, Officer Jerome Davenport (Washington, taking on the dual role of actor and director), reaches out to Fisher, trying to understand why he’s such an angry young man. At first unwilling to discuss himself, Fisher does eventually open up about his turbulent past, of how his father was killed before he was born, and his mother gave birth to him while she was in prison. So, he ended up living in a foster home, where he was watched over by the Tates. Not only did Mrs. Tate (Novella Nelson) abuse him both physically and emotionally, but he was also molested at an early age by the Tates’ housekeeper. Fisher is desperate to overcome his problems, mostly because he doesn't want them to affect his budding romance with fellow Cadet, Cheryl Smolley (Joy Bryant). Davenport does what he can to help, yet at the same time informs Fisher that, to be totally free of his past, he must seek out his real mother, and confront, head-on, the wrongs done to him. If he doesn't, Davenport tells him, he’ll never be able to move on.
Antwone Fisher is no great technical achievement, and while this statement may sound like a criticism, it isn’t. For a first-time director, Washington shows a good deal of patience, avoiding the flash of camera trickery and fast-paced editing to instead allow the story of Antwone Fisher to take center stage. The movie also managed to pull me in emotionally, and Derek Luke was a big reason why. Antwone Fisher was his debut film as well, and he superbly captured the character’s pent-up frustrations, as well as the turmoil eating away at his soul.
A deeply dramatic, often heart-wrenching motion picture, Antwone Fisher relates a powerful tale, and does so very, very well.