Wednesday, January 16, 2008

He Was a Quiet Man

The verdict: Dark, off-beat character study of office frustration. While not terrible, it's derivative of a number of better movies.

The rating: 5/10

He Was a Quiet Man is a dark tale of despair told from the perspective of Bob Maconel (Slater), a man who has reached a pretty bleak point in his life. Right from the opening scenes of the movie, this character is portrayed as a downtrodden lonely outcast, and immediately after arriving into his office cubicle (at a company named A.D.D.), he begins loading a gun, quietly assigning each bullet to one of his neighbouring colleagues. Events take a strange twist soon after these scenes, however, and the movie does not at all follow a beaten path.

Christian Slater is almost unrecognisable as the monosyllabic, mustachioed office worker so lacking in social skills, he seems to blush when anyone addresses him directly. He lives alone, has a dead end job, and is treated pretty badly by his young upstart of a boss. He's also patently losing the plot, the first clue given when we overhear his goldfish advising him to pull the trigger...

This movie is surprising in parts, and almost holds the interest until the end. The main problem I had with it was the debt it owes to a number of movies which are unfortunately better than this. For a start, Falling Down did a better job of portraying the mundane despair of the blue-collar worker. Also, there are a number of scenes set in the company boardroom, with William H. Macy as the chief executive with questionable motives, and these scenes evoke memories of Network, where Peter Finch's madness was exploited by television network executives. And then of course there's American Psycho, a much richer movie in terms of it's protrayal of similar themes: office based one-upmanship, male competition, loneliness and fear of insanity.

Slater gives a decent performance in the lead, but we learn little of his character's background, so it is difficult to know whether to be on his side or not, especially considering he's about to commit a spree killing in the movie's opening scenes. Elisha Cuthbert delivers decent support in a difficult role, but the dream-like narrative was overly ambitious for me. Also, the office characters were exaggerated stereotypes, but given that this story is told by an untrustworthy narrator, we can possibly excuse this, and call it dramatic licence.

If I was you, I wouldn't go out of my way to see this one, but if you enjoyed all three movies I referred to as my suggestions for director Frank Cappello's influences (American Psycho in particular), then you might find something to enjoy here. Otherwise, I reckon it's a little too off-beat, meandering and derivative for most people's tastes.


film dude said...

one Christian tries to do something like what the other Christian did, eh?

PaddyC said...

hehe, sort of! I'd always bet on Bale over Slater though!

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