ANTWONE FISHER: Starring Derek Luke, Denzel Washington, Joy Bryant. Director: Denzel Washington.

Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington takes the big step behind the camera to make a directorial debut that is earnest, worthy – and pretty dull.

It’s a true-life tale, with the title character (played by Derek Young) a troubled and punchy Navy recruit who finds himself in therapy after one bout of fisticuffs too many.

It’s up to psychiatrist Jerome Davenport (Washington) to coax out the reason why Fisher has such a massive chip on his shoulder – is he fighting inner demons, or just fighting mad?

A couple of silent sessions later, Fisher starts to open up and flashes back to a childhood of physical, mental and sexual abuse. No wonder he fancies a scrap, but maybe if he can find his family he can sort himself out and stay in the navy?

Unfortunately, you won’t care. A true-life hard-luck story like this should leave the cinema-goer moved, rather than move them to leave the cinema.

It’s not that it’s bad – Washington’s directing style is competent and avoids flashy camera tricks, the actors do the best with what they’ve got to work with – but it’s far too leaden to become the uplifting movie it needs to be.

TO KILL A KING: Starring Tim Roth, Dougray Scott, Rupert Everett, Olivia Williams. Director: Mike Barker.

It’s British history on the big screen, with some of the country’s finest thesps throwing themselves into the aftermath of the Civil War.

The Roundheads, led by Lord General Thomas Fairfax (Dougray Scott) and his deputy Oliver Cromwell (Tim Roth), have given the Cavaliers a thumping and now seek to reform the Crown and rebuild an England ruined by years of war.

Charting the course of their stormy relationship, this is a film set in darkened corridors of power rather than on bloody battlefields. Budget restrictions (the film went bankrupt twice during production) mean a lack of physical action, but sees conflict expressed with words and wit as the friendship between the two men dissolves, Cromwell losing patience with Fairfax’s approach and installing himself as Lord Protector.

Although restricted by an exposition-laden script and some unintentionally funny moments (there’s a Hey Nonny No singalong that leaves you expecting the entrance of Blackadder and Baldrick), the historical drama and political intrigue still makes for a mainly exciting film, much of it filmed on location at Hampton Court Palace.

Mark Miseldine