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He Was a Quiet Man
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by brianorndorf

"When Christian Slater attacks"
4 stars

“He Was a Quiet Man” opens with 15 minutes of taut, temptingly deranged filmmaking, exploring the unhinged rattle of a Dilbert-like drone ready to turn the lights out on his hellish office experience with a hail of bullets. It’s a delirious introduction of an archetypal repressed maniac, and it launches this mysterious indie film off on a promising note of sublime satiric chaos. Then the rest of the film happens.

Bob Maconel (Christian Slater) is a mentally unstable man toiling away in a lonely cubicle where he’s constantly disrespected by his superiors. Dreaming of murdering his co-workers, Bob is beaten to the punch by a fellow office nut, who Bob shoots in defense, branding him a hero. Soon promoted by his boss (William H. Macy) to suspicious vocational heights, Bob is left to deal with Vanessa (Elisha Cuthbert), his object of workplace desire now paralyzed and suicidal as a result of the shooting.

While perhaps unfair, it’s interesting to mention that writer/director Frank A. Cappello’s first screenplay was for the 1991 Hulk Hogan kiddie comedy “Suburban Commando.” I guess when you start your career off on that note, it’s inevitable that you’ll make a film about the cancerous decent into insanity.

Gathering cues from all over the cinematic map, from “Falling Down” to “Office Space,” Cappello’s “Quiet Man” is familiar terrain, but his approach squeezes some zest into the finished product. It’s a more puzzling film than it initially implies, and I was enamored with its mean streak in the early going: a sweaty, feverish Bob cheerfully loading his gun at his desk, or Bob bringing a red button with him on his lunch break to fantasize what blowing up his office building would feel like. It’s this sick sense of humor that lends surprise to the film; the rare feeling of watching something predictable turn impulsive and interested in subversive dramatic endeavors.

The nightmare is enhanced by Slater’s gonzo performance. It’s great to see the once mighty king of cool challenged in “Quiet Man” with a complex role that Slater bites down hard on. Losing himself behind fake teeth and a horrible complexion, Slater’s take on Bob is an insular piece, since madness has lulled the character into his own world over the years, leaving Bob conversing with his pet fish or having his suicide note all ready to go, laminated on the fridge. It’s all routine and blinky paranoia for Bob, and Slater puts in an incredible effort.

Cuthbert is equally engaging as the wounded, defiant Vanessa, but her role plays into the dramatic quandaries “Quiet Man” faces when it looks beyond Bob’s rage. Morphing into something of a romance, Bob and Vanessa form a bond that recalls Vanessa’s former role of a ruthless opportunist, leaving the reality of her feelings a nice hook for the film to toy with. However, there are several painful scenes of cutesy bonding that are either damaged by Cappello’s cringing execution, or just stunningly ineffective in basic conception (a karaoke scene comes immediately to mind). There’s no reason this subplot should lack the fangs prevalent in the rest of the film.

“Quiet Man” is more intriguing as a document of a rotted mind, and thankfully Cappello hugs tight to this exploration. The film runs out of ideas toward the end (replaced by gimmicky camerawork), but it slows down the movie instead of stopping it in its tracks. It has just enough of a kick left in the script to scrounge up a tart finale that’s grandiose, yet oddly organic with the rest of this unusual picture.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15817&reviewer=404
originally posted: 01/18/08 11:27:21
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2007 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/03/17 danR If that isn't a remarkable movie, I haven't seen any. 5 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. who doesn't have somebody they would love to kill? original idea & i liked it. :P 4 stars
10/24/08 brian Some intriguing moments, but the underpinning has a mean spirit. 2 stars
3/21/08 Pamela White Slater is marvelous 5 stars
3/22/07 Glenn W Christian Slater surprises, and this film has a unique twist 4 stars
3/16/07 Jack Blumenkant It's probably in the top 5 most brilliant films I've ever seen... ever. 5 stars
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  DVD: 15-Jan-2008



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