There was a time when Christian Slater was the man. Really. Between Pump Up The Volume and True Romance, there are movies he was in that capture certain parts of my youth perfectly. But then he made Alone in the Dark, and honestly, no one paid attention to him anymore. And for awhile, he vanished, delegated to straight-to-DVD sequels that would make the SyFy channel blush. But whether you know it or not, he has mounted a somewhat silent comeback among underground film enthusiasts such as myself. The film that kick started that return, in my eyes at least, is a crazy little film called He Was A Quiet Man.
And much like most of the other films I have recommended to you all in this column so far, this is, say it with me kids, a film unlike any you have ever seen. A film that plays with the idea of a narrator, and what happens to a story when the narrator has lost his grip on reality. And this is also a version of Christian Slater you have never seen before, so some major props to him for pulling it off. And though I say it every week, no spoilers, I promise. Just vague and cryptic, which you know I do so well.
He Was A Quiet Man is about a man named Bob Maconel, played by Slater. He is just what the title implies. Quiet, strange, and a little bit insane. We see that his daily life means little to him, and his mind is constantly occupied with visions of murdering all of his coworkers at the office where he works. I mean, who DOESN’T fantasize about that? But it seems one day he plans on going through with it. You see him eyeing everyone in the office, noting where the people he hates most are located, checking out all the exits, and pumping himself up to finally do it. But before he can do it, someone else in the office beats him to it.
Whoa, I did not see that coming.
” You still want me to get you those Skittles out of the vending machine?”
And either does Bob. But Bob is in an odd place, because he is packing heat, too, so what do you think happens next? If you guessed that Bob turns the tables and kills the office shooter, you are correct. In one moment of butterfly effect style timing and decision making, Bob goes from potential murderer to hero. And much like you would expect in such a scenario, Bob is as overwhelmed by it as anyone would be. This man, stuck in a loop in his life where no one knew he even existed is suddenly a hero to all, being interviewed by news teams and such. The cool guys at the office inviting him out for drinks. And on top of that, the woman he was hopelessly in love with in the office where he worked and him have began to develop a friendship, but her wounds left her quadriplegic. I feel like this is the part where I should tell you this is a VERY black comedy, and maybe show you the trailer so you have an idea, slightly, about the madness involved here.
And yes, there is a talking fish in this movie.
This movie is very much exactly what would happen if Fight Club had dirty sex with Office Space, and then left their baby in a dumpster. This movie is that beautiful dumpster baby, still alive and kicking, but being ignored by far too many. Now I am lifting this baby out of the trash and holding it up to you, asking you to look into its eyes and see how lovely it is. See that it just needs a chance to breathe and grow, and we can give it that chance by watching it. Okay, I’ma drop this analogy in the dumpster again and get back to talking about the actual movie.
Instead of a mirror over my bed, I have this. I know, I am a weirdo.
You know this is the part where I talk about the cast, and the cast in this film is great. We focus mainly on Slater as Bob, but there is an instability, and yet an every-man quality to him that Slater really pulls off. You will lose sight of the fact that this is Christian Slater, and the few times you remember in the film, it will be like: No shit, didn’t think he had this left in him. And don’t just write him off as the quiet man here. There is a LOT going on under the surface, and those layers do reveal over the course of the film.
Venessa, who is the aforementioned, crippled love interest, is played by Elisa Cuthbert, and she really surprised me in her role as Venessa. She is a character who you can feel. At times, she is seething with hatred, and at other times, she feels nothing but sadness, but she always feels, and emotes that far better than she ever has in any other role. Again, a role that blossoms more across the movie, so don’t assume you know her when you first meet her.
And finally, we have William H. Macy as Bob and Venessa’s boss, Gene Shelby. He is every bit the condescending prick boss we have all had, who in one minute is telling us what a great job we did, and in the next reminding us we are solely there to wipe the shit off of their shoes. You will want to spit in his face, and that is how you know it is an awesome performance. Being goofy and likable is easy on film. Being so slimy you instill hate in your audience is difficult, and Macy nails it.
That’s not a “wanna makeout” face. That is a “I’m paralyzed” face. Sorry you confused the two.
The final thing I really like about the film is how it tries to balance out hope and cynicism, yet barely manages to. Most movies choose to focus on one or the other, forgetting that life is very much a high wire act of balancing both. This film walks that high wire. At one point, reflecting back only the deepest of despairs, and in other moments, giving us an almost overly ideal sense of hope. It is fun to bounce back and forth between both, and where it ends up was the greatest joy of all for me.
Because even in the ending, the most fantastical and absurd moments of the film completely make sense, and you get that real feeling that you’ve been taken for a ride and didn’t even know it until it jerked to a stop. And that is exactly why I love this film. It is like that ride at the fair that you need to ride twice, one right after the other, just so you can truly squeeze all the joy and adrenaline out of it, no matter how much it wipes you out. Watch He Was A Quiet Man, It wipes you out, but in the best way possible.
And if you like being wiped out and taking strange rides, you should take this one….