I’ve never felt strongly about Christian Slater in any way. He’s always struck me as a journeyman actor, getting the job done, but falling short of the star power that Hollywood A-listers seem to exude. Nevertheless, I always felt that I was competent hands when Slater was onscreen. When I saw the promo for He Was a Quiet Man, I thought that this was a role that would really allow Slater to shine and show off his acting chops. He doesn’t disappoint, but the film does.
Anyone who currently works or has worked in an office setting can relate to Slater’s character Bob Maconel. Bob hates his job and coworkers so much that he’s brought his gun to work and plans to kill the colleagues he hates. He goes so far as to reserve particular bullets for particular people, reciting their labels to himself in a crazy litany. Before he can carry out his plan, another fed up coworker beats him to the punch (or the shot) and starts murdering everyone in the office. Bob becomes an inadvertent hero when he kills the gunman. Bob then discovers a new life as he gets promoted and builds a relationship with one of the would-be office victims who becomes paraplegic due to a bullet in the spine. In saving these people, Bob may have saved himself.
I appreciate the writing the most, but it seems to derail somewhere in the middle of the movie. The excellent opening speech preps you for a compelling story, which the writing delivers for the most part, but then the last third of the movie takes turns that have you wondering what the heck the story is about. It’s as if writer/director Frank A. Cappello decided to the film in a different direction somewhere during development. Fortunately, the principal actors are adequately skilled and have enough chemistry to keep you distracted from the weird plot beats and the under-budgeted sets.
Even though Bob doesn’t have much going for him – receeding hairline, Rosacea, no fashion sense and no courage – he’s still easy to resonate with. He toys with a hulagirl statuette, no doubt thinking of far off places. Every workday is a pride-swallowing siege. When he comes home, he nurtures his hobby of painting microscopic scenery on match-heads. Unfortunately, his craziness is played up a little too heavy handedly. He talks to his fish and his fish talk back. He watches television on a TV with no vertical hold. When reporters siege his home, his instinct is to grab a gun…and then another gun. We get it. He’s one crazy dude.
And that’s the problem here: the narrator is completely unreliable. Typically, I don’t mind this convention, provided there’s still enough credible story to rely on. I don’t think there is here and you may walk away from He Was a Quiet Man feeling robbed of your time.