This is a dumb guy with nothing to lose explosion movie, which is forgiveable, but it is a pretentious, manipulative, and incompetent dumb explosion movie, which is not.
Vin Diesel plays a DEA cop who makes a big arrest — a cocaine kingpin. The minute we see him make that call to his beautiful adoring wife, we know what’s coming next. But no, first we have to live through a syrupy scene on the beach at sunset and then, yep, the bad guys come after Sean, and he gets shot and his wife is killed. So, ho hum, he’s out long enough to grow a goatee and then this time it’s personal yadda yadda, and we still have 3/4 of the movie for Sean to go after whoever did it.
The usual conventions are in place — the strip club scene, the “you need some time off, give me your badge” scene, the humorous interlude with the small-time drug dealer, the partner who first says he won’t go along on a boneheadly rogue mission but then shows up at the crucial moment, and of course the many, many, many moments of hitting, shooting, and blowing things up. But none of the scenes have any life, originality, or conviction. And there is this irritating effort at making it all seem more meaningful, with voiceovers that just sound silly, even with Diesel’s gravelly voice.
Parents should know that the movie is very, very violent, with a lot of firepower and many characters killed, including a woman and child. Policemen violate the civil rights of suspects, including beating them. Characters drink, smoke, and deal in drugs. They use very strong language, and a child’s use of a swear word is supposed to be humorous. When a character tries to insult Sean by suggesting he is gay for turning down a lap dance, Sean gets infuriated. Black and white characters are deeply loyal to each other. Most of the drug dealers and criminals are black or Latino.
Families who see this movie should talk about the dilemma posed to Sean’s partner, Demetrius (Larenz Tate, in the movie’s best performance). Demetrius must do what he thinks is right or what Sean wants him to do. Sean says at one point that “that’s not my fault if somebody gets out of line.” Families should discuss his failure to accept responsibility for his actions (and the police department’s casual attitude toward his many violations of law and procedure).
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy better films with Diesel, including “Pitch Black” or “Boiler Room.”