"Welcome to our world, Bob"
This is a strange trailer, that depicts the opposite of the tone of this film. But what else can I show?
The above phrase was said by a goldfish, owned by our protagonist Bob (Christian Slater). Bob just saw legions of reporters surrounding his house. He panics, grabs a .357 magnum and a 12 gauge shotgun. His house has darkened, and he is surrounded by chaos and paparazzi; how his goldfish feels. Yes, Bob's goldfish talk in this film. Every day, Bob goes to work, slowly and laboriously, while traffic speeds by at ridiculously rapid speeds (literally.) Every day, Bob loads his revolver at work, with the intent of killing 6 specific people on his cubicle-mazed floor. Every day, he backs down, and is walked all over. Every day, he imagines blowing up his 20+ story office building. His fish talk down to him, and ask him every day if "Those bastards are dead." Bob chugs down a bottle of Martinelli's apple juice (good choice, sir) and proceeds to say that tomorrow is the day. It's that time; his boss is pissing him off and he's getting harassed by a woman accusing him of sexual harassment. He loads his gun. Bullets 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 go in. He closes his eyes, "Just do it." Bullet 6 is dropped. He lies on the floor looking for it, and hears the sweet sound of victory; gunshots followed by corpses dropping. He stands, and notices his cubicle buddy Cole. Cole is somewhat satisfied, while Bob is a bit mystified and confused. Cole and Bob agree on those who got shot deserved it, and the two notice that a girl (Elisha Cuthbert) in the office is still alive, after getting shot. Cole attempts to finish her off, but Bob stops him. From then on, to everyone around him, Bob is a hero. He even gets the girl in the end, after he stops her from trying to convince him to push her into a subway car. Yup. The bitch is suicidal, and Bob can't do it. Thankfully, she appreciates this, after much contemplation, and their relationship begins to develop, as well as Bob's new life.
He Was a Quiet Man reminds me a lot like a Coen Brothers film. Of course, the plot alone is somewhat sadistic and slightly comedic, much like a majority of the Coens' filmography. Our protagonist Bob comes along with the Taxi Driver aspect of pity, and a little bit relating; mainly on his views on society. Then there are the small aspects like being cleverly and strongly written, with repetition of phrases for comedic purposes, and being deceptive at all costs. The script provides several pieces of dialogue and monologue that are memorable and deep. He was a Quiet Man is indeed thought provoking as it plays out, and it's really good at it. Yet, there are some strangely "zany" things like Bob's CG goldfish that provide comedic relief and serve as a rain-cloud that bursts bubbles. The film is somewhat of a satire, in the vein of American Beauty, Falling Down, or Office Space. It juggles comedy, drama, thrill, and much more in a complicated cycle. In fact, combine all three of those movies I mentioned; you have He Was a Quiet Man.
The general theme alone gives off the Coen vibe; He Was a Quiet Man is about living with a lie. Much in the vein of World's Greatest Dad, our protagonist goes to great lengths, thanks to the results of his lying; in this case, accepting and claiming that he indeed saved the girl and killed the gunman. Early in the film, we see Bob driving in traffic, at a slow pace. All around him, cars are moving in fast-forward, at ridiculous speeds. It looks good visually, and metaphorically as well. There is a nice touch along with this idea. As Bob continues to live deeper and deeper into his lie, everything gets faster and more rushed, as far as the film's pacing goes. The editing becomes more constant and cutty, and everything just gets hectic, much like the world he once wished to blow up. It's well though out, and shows off the film's tendency to get metaphorical every once in a while.
Unlike the Coens, this film lacks a bit of humanity and emotion. Of course, the characters feel and what not, but there is a bit of a disconnected feel; I don't feel the true heart of it. It lacks a soul, if you will. The characters have their own emotions, yet the world they live in is just so... cynical and not happy. Like there's no hope. Even the parts that are happy and what not just feel fake and somewhat comedic because of how he got to where he is. Like they seriously expect me to believe that they let him get this far? Luckily, they bring us back to base, but still have this hateful attitude and eventually, a mind-bending revenge/Fight Club-esque redemption feel. It could turn viewers off, but that's beside the fact that there are so many good things in this movie.
I'm not too sure if the film wants you to forget the actual truth, or wants it to linger on your mind as Bob becomes a more extravagant and happier person, as a result of his lies. In fact, after a while, it strays so far away from the underlying fact that Bob is taking credit for something he didn't do, and isn't admitting something that he was going to do, that it's no longer a dark comedy and turns into somewhat of a romance and redemption film for a period of time. Of course, things come back to bite him in the ass, but the film's biggest problem is balancing the several genres it spans. He Was a Quiet Man walks the thin line between a standard drama like American Beauty, and an edgy indie film. There is a constant switch between comedic and sadistic, and then it just drops all of that for this strange, blissful period of time. It's weird, and proves that there should've been a better balance here, or at least the film should've been clearer on it's intentions. Maybe it's a stretch, asking for such a lending hand, but still, you can't throw a viewer into a film as strong as this without giving a bit of guidance. Even some of the dramatic or uplifting parts feel a bit unearned. I'd like to call this a dark comedy, but it just goes way too far away from what it originally set out to be. It takes so many strange turns, that I'm still a little pissed off that they left me hanging for that amount of time.
The story starts and ends nicely, with not too many bumps in the road, other than it's unsteady pacing. He Was a Quiet Man has a great ending, but it is a bit too abrupt to feel satisfying, despite the events that occur. Around the end, like I mentioned earlier, things got too hectic and somewhat confusing to comprehend as the ending occurs. It just reached the point of leaving sanity and just playing out in this strange, blurry and voice filled way. You're response, if you couldn't really figure what happened, will most likely be, "Wat" or "K." I'm sorry to get so informal *cough*bitches, but it does indeed get that obscure. It's a bit frustrating, but definitely an intriguing way to let things work out. It could be a strong point for some viewers, and a weak point for others; it's all really on how you take in the story and how it progresses. Actually, just as a side note, there is an interesting eye-catching spoiler near the beginning of the film, giving away the ending. If you see it, and put two and two together, the films revelation will shock you less, but still have it's effect. I digress.
Christian Slater does an amazing job here, doing his best Matthew Broderick impersonation. Of course, I'm kidding. But really, Slater does justice to this type of character that we see in movies like Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy; you kind of want to root for him, but if anything, you feel bad for them. It's a really different role, and he succeeds at what he attempted to do. His accent and small actions are very detailed and a nice touch. His emotions expressed feel true and never does he really overact. Sadly, I can't say the same for some of the secondary characters. A majority of them take the role of stereotypes that come off clear as crystal, but a bit over-exaggerated. The assholes are just dumb jock-like guys, and everyone else just plays on what kind of character they are. That's a good thing, but they're all trying a big too hard. Elisha Cuthbert does an awesome job as lead female girl, because, you know, I forgot her name. After getting shot, her very cynical and hateful tone is well done. She's kind of funny in a dark manner, and manages to keep true the emotion of being suicidal, and dedicated to it. It's a strong performance, until the movie gets weird and it changes gears. Even then, she's okay. William H. Macy is barely in this movie, sorry to say. When he is, it's cool, because, hey, it's William H. Macy. My dad met him at a coffee shop, you know.
Visually, the movie looks excellent; this is the highlight of the film. There are spastic cuts left and right, and they're so well laced into each scene that it feels standard, while being spontaneous. There are even cuts in the background as the scene upfront plays uncut. There are really cool shots here and there, like a ridiculously close up steady-cam shot of Bob as he walks through a scene with a huge amount of stuff occurring in the background. It's cleverly shot, and looks awesome. There's some CGI here and there, like for Bob's fish, and some explosions. For an indie film, these look good and their effect is strong. Strangely enough, there is a downside to this awesome aspect. I think they got so caught up in making the film look edgy and cutty, that it just got way too out of hand. They go a little too far with the obscure and crazy editing, that this helps add to the pacing and comprehension problems that I mentioned earlier. You can make something look cool, but there is such a thing as overdoing a good idea, and making it work out for the worse.
I know it sounds like I shit all over the movie. But behind all of these technical and pacing flaws, this was a really interesting movie that keeps me excited and thinking. It just sadly gets caught up in what it wanted to do, gets confused with what it has, then just starts making loops and makes a mess of it all. Yet, this mess that we're left with isn't too messy (it is still messy, though). It's an overall interesting mess, that can be viewed and enjoyed. You can look past the flaws, because they could be considered quite minor, but if you're anything like me, that appreciates neat ideas, themes, metaphors, etc., then you'll be a bit disappointed on how they are handled, despite how well thought out they were; they were just poorly placed and controlled.
And yet, He Was a Quiet Man is an interesting film, that has the ability to grab your attention forcefully. Underneath all of these technicalities and story issues, there is a fair share of entertainment here. Comedy and thrill exists here, as well as many, many intriguing things to show off. The movie has something to say, and a special way to show it. It's plot alone is quite ridiculous, and the movie goes to many strange places that you wouldn't really expect it to go. In fact, it gets sad, as much as it gets weird in other genres. I just want to reassure you all that yes, the movie has it's problems, but man, there are a lot of cool things here. Watch them, and try not to nit-pick like me.
4/5 for being really interesting and utterly captivating, and yet being somewhat forgetful of what it originally set out to be. Plus, there's a lack of humanity in here; it became clear after a while. But that should hopefully be no matter to you; the movie is great in so many other aspects; go watch it!