Antwone Fisher, a young Navy seaman, overcomes his violent tendencies and abusive childhood to find a side of himself he has kept hidden for years. It has a touch of the Good Will Hunting about it, with Denzel Washington playing a psychiatrist who is somewhat repressed himself, helping the promising kid recognize his own greatness, and learning a valuable lesson in the process himself. But the story isn’t so much about embracing your opportunities as about taking control of your self, and realizing that although your past can shape you, it doesn’t define you.
This is Denzel Washington’s directorial debut, and the only point where he sets a foot wrong is right at the very end, where he gives his own character an awkward “you helped me more than I helped you” speech. Yuck. It’s Derek Luke who steals the show, though. His performance as Antwone Fisher, from repressed anger to awkwardly romantic, is extraordinary.
Alex Hitchens (Will Smith) is the “Date Doctor”. He helps men find–and create–the right opportunities to meet and hit it off with women they would otherwise be too shy or awkward to ask out. He does this quietly, though, without any publicity. All his business comes from referrals. So when the woman he himself falls in love with is a newspaper gossip columnist…it’s easy to see where this will eventually lead.
The first hour of the film is very sweet. Hitch helps a timid, clumsy accountant break the ice with a rich heiress he is madly in love with, and the two of them stumble towards romance. At the same time, Hitch and Sara (the columnist) go out on a couple of dates that, despite all of Hitch’s experience as a professional smoothie, turn out disastrously.
But the fatal misunderstanding that causes the reversal of fortune, despite being obvious, felt contrived in much the same way that How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days did. The resolution then drags on for almost another hour, which is far too long for a romantic comedy of this nature. It loses a lot of its initial charm by being wordy without saying much, and by trying to juggle too many balls at once. The parallel doctor and patient plots are fun, but the balance between them isn’t right.
Nevertheless, this is Will Smith at the top of his game again: smooth, funny, and with bags of easygoing charm. Eva Mendes and Kevin James provide quality support as Sara and the bumbling accountant. The chemistry between Smith and Mendes is good, but not electrifying. Overall, Hitch is entertaining enough, but it doesn’t rise to be anything better.
It’s an undeniably beautiful film, lovingly shot with some extraordinary fight and battle scenes. But…
I’m getting tired of Tom Cruise’s earnest, indefatigable, one-man-who-pulls-through-in-the-end schtick. This was one performance too many for me. Also, I found the film’s constant heavy hammering on the themes of honour and loyalty really tiresome. By the end of the film I was longing to see more of the everyday lives of the rebel villagers, and less of their warriors’ desire to die a glorious death in battle. There are more subtle ways to tell a story about honour.
Finally, the race thing bothered me: the fact that it’s a white man who eventually redeems the honour of the Samurai. I understand why the characters were chosen to work that way, in order to make it fly as a big-budget Hollywood epic, but I found it ugly and patronising nevertheless. I would much rather thave watched this film if it had been a Japanese production, with the focus on Ken Watanabe’s character Katsumoto instead. In fact, you could remove the Tom Cruise character altogether, and you’d end up with a stronger story. The tragedy would be greater, and the emotional impact would be more honest.
Coyote Rising is the second volume in Allen Steele’s Coyote series. At the end of Coyote, the rebel colonists, after a hard few years on the ground, were joined by another wave of settlers intent on claiming the colony for themselves. The original colonists, who had fled Earth to seek their freedom on the alien world, abandoned their fledgeling township rather than let themselves be taken over. This book is another collection of stories, following both groups of settlers as they struggle with each other for dominance, while at the same time trying hard to survive on the frontier. And there isn’t a single dud among them. They are all well-written, strongly plotted, and full of fascinating characters. Extraordinary.