38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2003
To be honest, I was a little hesitant to see "Antwone Fisher," the directorial debut by Denzel Washington. Movies directed by actors can be little more than self-serving vanity projects that merely say, "Hey! I'm an actor! And I can also direct! I'm so multitalented!" You can say the same thing about this movie, but you would be wrong. While it's a little sentimental at times, "Antwone Fisher" is one of the most heartfelt and genuine movies of 2002. Derek Luke is the title character, a young and hotheaded seaman who gets sent to Jerome Davenport (Washington) for psychiatric evaluation following a heated brawl with another soldier. From there, the two begin a painful journey that involves discovering the roots of Fisher's anger and, more important, the broken family that left him behind. It's often disturbing to see the psychological abuse Fisher suffered at the hands of his elders, and his strong will and tenacity make him all the more respectable. Luke gives a decidedly low-key yet strong performance and holds his own admirably against seasoned pro (and two-time Oscar winner) Washington. But if I have a slight bone to pick with this movie, it's that its plot has a bit of a "heard it before" feel. Several movies ("Good Will Hunting" comes to mind) have already featured a story about a troubled kid whose life gets turned around by an older mentor. Yet, "Antwone Fisher" earns its four stars thanks to its classy, non-flashy direction by Denzel and a solid performance by Luke.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2003
All I can say is: Thank you, Antwone, for sharing your life with us, and thank you, Denzel, for bringing this story to the theater. You have made a huge difference in my own life, and I wish I could thank you personally.
As a child, I suffered much of the same abuse (though not so violent) and loneliness that Antwone experienced. It has been a long and difficult journey for me to move towards health. I did not make it as quickly as Antwone did.
What this movie did for me was to help me face again some of my old pain, but also, like Antwone in the movie, to see that I have finally found my own "Welcome Home" family in my two children, my two "in-law" children, their families, and my new grandson.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2005
...i would give this film ten stars even, more if there were a way. I saw this movie when it first came out on DVD in 2003, and i think i pretty much understood it for what it was, but i still didn't feel it for what it was. Then, i saw it again last night for the first time since 2003, when it very first arrived on DVD. This time, i both understood it for what it was meant to be and felt it the way it was meant to be felt. As a young, black writer trying to make my way along the same path that people like Toni Morrison, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, J. K. Rowling, Antwone Fisher and Ralph Ellison have paved before me, it is always a very interesting thing to see such an honest and heartfelt screenplay make it to the big screen. The actors are superb throughout the entire picture, and they always manage stay in character. Just when you expect the characters to suddenly change due to some happy or sad or traumatic event in their life at the moment, BAM, reality is smashed into your face. This, more than anything else in the film besides the truth to the story, made watching it very worthwhile. Because Life often has no happy ending, and things rarely ever turn so quickly in real life, as they do in hundreds of other films. I don't exactly know how to describe watching this film. I'll just say that it moved me to tears several times throughout with no shame whatsoever. I was a child who was abandoned by his father completely, and i didn't have the best family life, growing up poor in a very small town. I loved this film so much that i got a copy for my best friend recently, as a Christmas gift. I thought that he must see it, if only to give him some view of what it was like growing up me or like me, although i know i didn't have it as badly as Mr. Fisher did. All in all, very great film, great acting, very realistc, very compelling, and most of all, completely honest, even when it hurts. Watching this film, you begin to understand that most personal problems stem from somewhere, most likely childhood, even if you've never seen or thought about this before. We are all truly sponges as children. See this film. You will not regret it. It may even help you to watch it. it helped me, after all. It allowed me to see that there is hope, this second time around.
Hawksmoor...From The Bleed
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2004
As other reviewers have already stated, this movie should've gotten Denzel a bunch of academy awards. Any black actor could've done Training Day halfway decently. Why is Hollywood so in love with negative black stereotypes (let me not even mention Monster's Ball)? Derek Luke should've also walked away with plenty of awards himself! This is hands-down one of the best films I've seen in my 32 years of life. I rarely buy movies on DVD because I know I won't watch them more than once and maybe twice at best. Well, I not only bought this movie, but, I have bought more copies as Xmas and birthday presents for friends and relatives! Rarely does a movie move me to tears. This movie had me crying for joy or sadness several times. This movie was so powerful, I even saw other grown men crying when I was watching this with my wife at the theater! I'd like to know what movie the reviewers that didn't give this movie 5 stars felt was worthy of 5 stars. Pick this one up you won't be disappointed!!
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 12, 2003
I believe today's society is too reliant on counselors, therapists, and an abundance of Dr. Phils who tell us how to act and feel. But ANTWONE FISHER mellowed my opinion of couches and shrinks--made me better understand how a caring professional can make a positive difference in another person's life.
I was fascinated to learn this movie is based on a true story; I was even more impressed that newcomer Derek Luke, who plays the title role, is an actual friend of the real Antwone Fisher. Luke brings a plethora of range to his character: anger, resentment, confusion, forgivness, integrity, dignity. Portraying a young sailor trying to come to grips with his painful past--trying to control his violent outbursts--Luke flawlessly stays in character, whereas other newcomers have a tendency to overact. Antwone Fisher, as it turns out, is a remarkable human being; Derek Luke effectively brings this fact to the forefront.
Denzel Washington, portraying Navy psychiatrist Jerome Davenport, is superb. Davenport doesn't belittle, belabor, or browbeat his young patient--he gains Antwone's confidence through soft-spoken empathy and compassion. As the relationship between the two men evolves, Davenport becomes a surrogate father to Antwone. Yet Davenport also has problems in his personal life; his friendship with Antwone gives him the additional insight and strength he needs to confront them.
The chemistry between Washington and Luke is extraordinary; the scenes featuring just the two of them are spellbinding. ATWONE FISHER is also Washington's directorial debut; if Washington can furnish such exceptional storytelling right out of the gate, one can only hope he'll decide to go behind the camera again and again.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
This movie was a great viewing experience, based on a true story. It is about how childhood abuse and abandonment affects the life and career of a Navy enlisted man, especially in the area of anger. It is a little painful to watch at times, because as Antwone Fisher (beautifully played by Derek Luke) remembers his pain, you also experience it in a way. Ultimately, however, the effect is not dark but inspirational. The movie is about how Antwone struggles to be strong and to overcome his past---this struggle, to one degree or another, is one we all can identify with.
The acting was wonderful and the writing was also. The special features that came on the DVD version I bought (widescreen version) included information and a feature about the real Antwone Fisher. After he left the Navy, he was a security guard. A producer discovered his background, believed in him, and supported him in writing the screenplay himself. So the film is especially poignant in that it was written by the man who experienced it, one who does not have a writing background or college degree, yet who writes movingly, realistically, and wonderfully.
Although the subject is serious, the film does not leave you with a depressing feeling, but encouraged and uplifted about the human experience. I would have given it five starts, but I save that rating for "great" movies; although this movie was not great, it was moving and very worthwhile to watch and own.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 15, 2006
This is one of the most moving films I've ever seen and it still moves me today. I love biopics (A Beautiful Mind, The Insider, Cinderella Man, Capote, Walk the Line), and this is one of my favorites. The true life story of a man as moving as Antwone Fisher is hard to find, and the talent that oozes out of each frame from actors like Denzel and the wonderfully talented Derek Luke (who is much overdue for some recognition) makes each second worth so much. Antwone (Luke) is a navy man sent to see Jerome Davenport (Washington), the Navy psychologist after Antwone gets in one too many fights. Antwone has an anger problem and that problem stems back, way back, to a childhood he doesn't want to face. It takes some time, but eventually Antwone breaks out of his shell and starts to confess all in his life, from abusive foster family, to child molestation to witnessing his best friends murder. Everything has played such a part in his life now and he is effected so horridly by it all that the only way to get past it is to confront it, and he does this with the help of Davenport and his new love interest played by the beautiful, and talented, Joy Bryant (Get Rich or Die Trying). The message this film carries, about self love and acceptence as well as finding one's self and learning to accept the past and move on to the future is so wonderful it will move you to tears (as will the fact that this film recieved NOT ONE mention at the oscars that year...) A+ film with an A+ cast that will leave you breathless.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2003
This was a very inspiring and touching movie that brings to light the negative effects of child abuse, as well as the fear and longing felt by abandoned children. Derek Luke's performance was Oscar-worthy, and Denzel Washington did a fairly good job with what he was given. True, his character seemed a little two-dimensional, but that can be blamed on the script, not the acting. The flashback scenes of abuse used just the right amounts of graphic-ness - the viewer was left wincing and horrified, but not totally grossed out. I especially liked the ending to this film - it was believable, and yet it was still uplifting. So many times in movies today we see unimaginable pain with no end, or are forced to watch contrived sugary endings. "Antwone Fisher" was neither of the above. It was truly inspiring. The only thing stopping this movie from being five stars was the lack of characterization of Washington's character. The script should have either gone deeper into his home troubles, or should have left them out entirely. This was a movie about Antwone, and, especially in the bathroom speech, the psychiatrist's own problems seemed to have been added as an afterthought. That notwithstanding, this was a truly sweet and inspirational movie. Well done.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2004
I waited a long time to finally watch this movie. I shouldn't have. This movie is very well crafted, and I can't think of anything I didn't like about the film. It really made me think about how our childhood (or in Antwone's case - lack of one) can shape our adult life. It was interesting to see how the main character "acted out" with violence because he had been abused during much of his young years.
The acting in this production is top notch. I can't think of a single cast member who didn't pull his or her own weight in this one. The scenes were done to perfection, and I wish I hadn't waited so long to see this movie. Even with all the disturbing information we learn about Atwone Fisher, the film manages to be a positive work, geared towards making the watcher realize even the biggest obstacles in life can be overcome.
If you haven't seen Antwone Fisher yet, don't wait any longer. Buy it, rent it, borrow it - but make sure to see it one way or another. It's worth the time and / or money.
See ya next review.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
I live in a city that is off the beaten path, especially when it comes to movies. "Lost in Translation" never came here and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" only made it to the local art theater. I remember when "Boyz in the Hood" came to town there was a story about it in the newspaper that made it sound for all the world that it was a foriegn film, and there is a sense in which that is true because the idea of living in a place where police helicopters are buzzing overhead all the time is beyond our experience. But even though films by African-American directors do not always manage to make it up this far into the Northland, I have made a point of checking them out when they are released on video and DVD. One of the main reasons is that directors like Spike Lee and John Singleton are making films that speaks to the African-American experience in America. This seems self-evident, but I have to tell you that very few movies have spoken to me directly about my life; I have identified with the television series "thirtysomething" and "Once and Again," at vastly different times in my life, more than anything else. But I can still appreciate the sense of purpose I almost always find in these films.
We have all heard the alarming statistics about how many African-American children are raised in homes without a father and the devastaing impact that has had on generations of such children, and on one level "Antwone Fisher" is about one such child. This 2003 film begins with a dream in which Antwone walks into a room and finds his entire family gathered for a big meal. Then he wakes up on the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier on which he serves. The next thing we know Antwone is getting into fights if anybody says the wrong word to him. The captain hits him with a list of punishments and also requires him to see a therapist, Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington), before the ship sails again. Antwone refuses to talk and in the tradition of "Good Will Hunting" Davenport waits him out. Eventually Antwone begins to tell his story and we learn of his horrific childhood.
Antwone's father was murdered before he was born, which was in the prison where his mother was surving time. When we see him as a boy he is in a foster home where he is abused emotionally, physically, and sexually. All of his problems stem from what happened then and Davenport helps Antwone to put the pieces together. But the final part of the healing process is Davenport's insistance that he has to go and find his family, whatever there is left to be found, and confront the last of his demons. At this point we discover that everything in the first hour-and-a-half of "Antwone Fisher" has been mere prologue to the powerful series of scenes that conclude the film.
The story behind this film is almost as impressive as the film itself. Fisher was a security guard at the Sony Studio when his screenplay was bought and Denzel Washington decided to make it in his first try at director. Then throw into the mix Derek Luke, a newcomer who was cast in the lead role and the end result is even more impressive. We are told at the end of the film that Fisher based the screenplay on his life but dramatized some of the scenes, which is always the case, though rarely admitted so boldly. Of course such a comment immediately makes your curious as to what was changed and why, but I quickly decided I did not care. That was because I liked the way the film ended and I do not care if it "true" or not because of the way it rings true, which is what matters most in film. What makes "Antwone Fisher" worth the seeing is the value it places on family, most notably by it absence, but also by the idea that it is out there if it you can find it.