This film reminded me a bit of that Michael Douglas flick from a few years back in ‘Falling Down’ where he played an anonymous working man pushed to the edge and snapping back. In ‘He Was a Quiet Man’ Christian Slater assumes the role of that man, however guided by a nihilistic talking goldfish, who is pushed to the limit and ready to strike back, until something strange happens.
As Bob Maconel, Slater plays a man who lives life almost in constant emotional pain and frustration. He works for a nondescript company doing a nondescript job and is virtually invisible by all with the notable exception of his supervisor Scott Harper (Jamison Jones) whose only purpose in life seems to be to make Bob’s life more miserable. Everyday Bob comes to work with a gun in his briefcase and every day he meticulously loads the bullets in this gun with the sole purpose to alert the world that he does indeed exist and he has something to say. Everyday however Bob chickens out, much to the constant ridicule of his pet goldfish who remarks that every day that Bob comes home alive is another day that he’s allowed those bastards to live.
After a particularly tough day dealing with Boss Harper, Bob has had enough. He pulls out his gun and proceeds to load the bullets, accidentally dropping one to ground, and when he bends over to pick the bullet up all hell breaks loose. It would appear, as Bob is witnessing through the crack under his cubicle, that fellow co-worker Ralf Coleman (David Wells) has had feelings similar to Bob about this particular work place, but as it turns out, not afraid to act on them. As the bodies hit the floor Bob rises to see his co-worker indiscriminately killing his fellow employees, with a particular bullet finding the spinal cord of one Vanessa Parks (Elisha Cuthbert), one of the nicest women in the company and a girl Bob has had a crush on since he started working at the company. Even Ralf
is mildly dismayed at this as the bullet was actually meant for the bitchy Nancy (Anzu Lawson), but not wanting Vanessa to suffer for the rest of her life Ralf chooses to end it for her. Bob can’t let that happen and turns his gun on the maniac and subsequently becomes a reluctant hero in the process.
Anonymous no more, Bob has become the toast of the company. Company CEO Gene Shelby (William H. Macy) gives Bob a top floor office, a fancy title and a company car, all which used to belong to the now quadriplegic Vanessa who ain’t to happy with Bob for saving her life. Eventually though everything perks up for Bob as he becomes caretaker and falls for the vulnerable Vanessa and his workmates look upon him with new found respect. There is a company psychologist who would like to talk to Bob who he avoids like the plague, and of course there is the question why did Bob bring a loaded gun to work in the first place. Plus it’s not like the fish has stopped talking to him meaning that Bob is just as crazy as he ever was. Now the question remains; Is Bob going to finish what Ralf Coleman started?
‘He Was a Quiet Man’ was one dark, witty and clever movie. It seemed to cop out a bit in the end from my vantage point, but other than that, writer / director Frank A. Capello has created a film that deals with issues almost anybody can identify with on some level, and then wraps it around this warped fantasy world of Bob Maconel whose grip on reality is tenuous at best. In what is no doubt a departure from the type of roles we are to see from Christian Slater, with his thinning hair, oversized glasses and a complete lack of confidence, he gives Bob Maconel a life that belies his insanity. This is a testament to Slater’s often overlooked skills as an actor that he can pull off such a complex role, especially considering just last week I saw the man in the flick ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ which was Christian Slater Classic on level 11 with the wisecracking, wicked grin and insane sneer in full display. Since the entire film essentially takes place in the mind of Bob Maconel, the onus is on the actor to carry the film as it will sink or swim on his ability, and Slater pulls it off effortlessly.
The thing that makes ‘He Was a Quiet Man’ a cut above was Capello’s ability to maintain the uniqueness of the story throughout as the narrative didn’t fall into the rut of predictability and circumstance that affects so many movies today. It wasn’t as if the film went out of its way to confuse or be different, but subtly so it managed to run off the tracks ever so slightly and ease its way back on without you ever knowing it went off in the first place. A truly masterful job of writing and direction.
I did think the ending was bit difficult to deal with, though it may well fall in line with narrative of the film, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Also Elisha Cuthbert is one great looking woman and she played the ‘good girl’ part of Vanessa quite well though it was difficult to buy her as the hyper ambitious, do anything slut that she portrayed Vanessa to be post accident. Plus watching her sit there with her mouth open, for reasons I just won’t get into, was a bit unnerving.
’He Was a Quiet Man’ was a very good film highlighted by a stellar performance by Christian Slater and whoever did the voice of the talking goldfish. Kudos to Frank A. Capello, who I notice also made American Yakuza back with Viggo Mortenson back in 1993 (A flick I liked actually) and then pretty much dropped out of the scene. Welcome back Frank.