It’s a little early for self-parody in the career of Vin Diesel. But he’s a calamitous cliché in A Man Apart playing Sean Vetter, an L.A. cop on a crusade against a Mexican drug cartel for killing (in one thug’s words) his “stupid bitch wife.” The thugs aren’t the only ones saddled with duh dialogue. Get this line from Sean — for full effect, imagine the rolling thunder of Diesel’s voice: “If I wanted you dead, you’d be dead.”
With more movies like A Man Apart, it’ll be kaput to Diesel’s acting future. The former bouncer showed promise with supporting roles in Saving Private Ryan and, especially, Boiler Room. And the star spot felt comfortable in The Fast and the Furious, in which he did a cool-jerk version of Lee Marvin with more muscle and less hair. It was last year’s hit xXx that overplayed Diesel’s hand. Was he real or digital? To the press he was cocky about his appeal and coy about his ethnic origins (Italian? black? both?) and sexual orientation. In A Man Apart — filmed before xXx — he pulls a lap dancer off his crotch. “Learn to respect yourself,” he says, earning a snigger. “You calling me a faggot?” he shouts without an ounce of irony. At least he could’ve joked, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.” What’s wrong with Diesel is that he’s letting his talent atrophy into caricature. Nothing kills a career quicker.