Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh

Wrapped nearly two years before its release in the wake of Vin Diesel's hugely popular THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (2001) and XXX (2002), this routine action picture doesn't miss a clich&#233. Gang-banger turned undercover narcotics agent Sean Vetter (Diesel) helps bring down Mexican drug lord Memo Lucero (Gino Silva), but loses his beloved wife, Tracy (Jacqueline Obradors), to thugs who were supposed to kill him. Mad with grief, Sean goes after her killers, and this time it's personal. Or, you can't kill a man who's already dead, or insert your favorite action-movie cliche here: Though briskly directed, this shoot 'em up is so relentlessly formulaic that's it's hard to imagine who, other than someone who hasn't been to the movies since they became the talkies, could be surprised by its hard-boiled plot machinations. Following a lengthy convalescence, Sean returns to the police force and learns that a new gangster number one — someone known only as "Diablo" — is taking over Lucero's operation and slaughtering anyone who resists. Sean orchestrates an audacious buy-and-bust operation designed to snare a white supremicist who has an in with Diablo, but the sting goes horribly wrong and Sean gets pink-slipped for being a loose cannon. No longer constrained by such niceties as Miranda warnings, rules of evidence, suspects' civil rights or codes of police conduct, Sean cozies up to the dealers and badasses he grew up with in the 'hood and drags his less volatile partner, Demetrius (Larenz Tate), along for the bloody ride. The film works best when it's sticking to the guns and poses conventions of macho crime pictures. When it reaches for emotional resonance, the results range from unconvincing to ludicrous. Diesel is a great screen presence but an actor of limited range, and the scenes in which Tracy and Sean slow-dance in the sand in front of their suspiciously expensive-looking beach house are so blissful that her death is inevitable. The surprise identity of the mysterious Diablo will surprise no one.