A Man Apart is an old-school action thriller starring Vin Diesel and that’s pretty much all you need to know about it. If you like these sorts of popcorn movies, you’re going to like this one as well. And if the thought of Vin Diesel in anything turns you off, better skip this one. In recent years I developed a craving for these forgettable crime thrillers of the past. I don’t have to think too much or analyze shit, I just play the movie and that’s it. Everything is straightforward and simple, you have the cartels smuggling dope in the US and only one man can stop them. However, he finds his match when the new ruthless cartel boss called Diablo shows up.
A Man Apart does a great job of explaining how the whole drug trade works and why it works so well. Actually, the first half of the movie is excellent. It offers a perfect balance of familiar character development and exciting action. However, as time goes on, the movie gets messier and messier. The last half an hour was a confusing blend of plot twists, awkward action scenes, and cringy melodrama. You should know that after the poor test screenings, New Line Cinema brought in John Herzfeld to do some additional shooting. He changed the ending and sped up the pace, but since we don’t know what the first cut looked like, we can’t say whether this was a good or a bad thing.
None of that eventually matters as this is one of those fire-and-forget films. It’s going to keep you mildly entertained for ninety minutes and then you’re going to forget all about it. Vin Diesel was his usual cocky and dominating self but Larenz Tate surprised me with his committed performance. I wonder why he didn’t make it big as he’s clearly a very talented actor. Also, it was really funny to watch Timothy Olyphant as this slick drug dealer Hollywood Jack. Just one year later, he will appear as the iconic Seth Bullock in one of my favorite television shows Deadwood.
Sean Vetter and his team are celebrating and the DEA is celebrating them. They’ve just caught one of the biggest crime bosses in Mexico, the infamous Memo Lucero. They know it’s just a matter of time before someone else takes his place so they’re using this time to enjoy themselves. And then, out of nowhere, a new, extremely vicious cartel boss appears. Diablo is his name and he’s killing people left and right of the border. So, it’s time for Sean and the rest of his team to start working again because this time, the job is personal.
One of the more fascinating aspects of A Man Apart is its ability to remain serious during formulaic and generic scenes. And there will be a lot of them. Also, it’s one of the rare movies using its predictability to its advantage. We know what’s going to happen, they know what must happen, and then it all happens exactly as we envisioned it. It’s oddly satisfying, especially if done right. If you’ve seen The Punisher, 2004 version, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The structure is basically the same. If, however, you’re looking for something a bit more engrossing, Man on Fire is a good option.
Fun Facts: Although the movie was shot towards the end of 2001, the production decided to wait two years until it released it. Partly because of the success of Vin Diesel’s movies and partly because of the additional reshoots.