Oscar-friendly actor's emotive directorial debut

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Overall rating:

Score 3


Antwone Fisher


Although hardly a work of cinematic flair or imagination, Denzel Washington’s directorial debut gets by on such dependable virtues as sincerity, skill and a simple belief in humanity. It’s the real-life drama of Antwone Fisher, who survived an abusive childhood to join the Navy, come to terms with his past and, ultimately, write a film about it. Derek Luke plays Fisher as a troubled cadet in his mid-’20s, full of rage and confusion and repeatedly getting into scrapes with colleagues. Gradually, under the guidance of a strong but sympathetic Navy psychiatrist (Washington), both Fisher and the film reveal their secrets. As a director, Washington keeps the narrative clear and the pace steady, letting the story generate its own power and allowing young newcomer Luke plenty of room. Sure, the film can be cloying (there’s certainly a lot of hugging and healing) and a little too neat, but it works in exactly the way you sense was intended. In this case, that feels like enough.