Frank A. Cappello, writer and director of He Was a Quiet Man, is a man with something to prove, having written the hilariously bad Hulk Hogan vehicle Suburban Commando, and directing the wholly disappointing Constantine. He Was a Quiet Man, whilst not an unqualified success, is one of the underseen gems of 2007.
The film is essentially an amalgam of A History of Violence, Falling Down, and Office Space, with a pile of quirks to boot. Bob Maconel (the hilariously disguised Christian Slater), a despondent office worker, decides that he is going to perform a murderous rampage at his work office, yet before he can do so, a fellow maniac beats him to it. However, Bob, in protecting the one person that he cares about, the beautiful Vanessa (Elisha Cuthbert), guns down the assailant, and inadvertently becomes a hero.
Bob is unashamedly similar to Michael Douglas' "D-Fens" character from Falling Down, kitted out in a shirt and tie, and even further, seeks moments of reflection in the great outdoors, although in this instance, there are no Mexican gangsters attempting to rob him. The similarities do, thankfully, stop there this film is born of something else, with its CGI traffic whizzing by at astronomical speeds as Bob dawdles along, illustrating the drudgery of Bob's life without an ounce of subtlety. Whilst the film as a whole is overly reliant on visual curiosities such as this, the animated, talking fish which eggs Bob on to kill his colleagues is delightfully colourful, and mildly amusing to boot.
As one can gather from the above paragraph, He Was a Quiet Man is very surreal in a hilarious sort of way. Essentially, if you gave David Lynch a funny bone, you'd probably end up with something remarkably similar to this. Despite the aforementioned reliance on visual effects, the film is unquestionably carried by the barely-recognisable Slater who, despite his recent collaboration with tragically awful director Uwe Boll, proves that he is still worth something in Hollywood, with comic timing that is nothing short of spot on.
Bob is essentially revered by everyone around him for his "heroic" actions he is given a new job, his colleagues no longer think of him as a schmuck, and the sexy office bitch wants to have sex with him, yet the film's real point of contention is Cuthbert's character. Vanessa is left paralysed following the shooting, wishing that she was dead, and moreover, she wishes that Bob, who saved her life, would kill her.
A surprisingly understated (until the climatic scenes) conundrum surfaces as an aside to this drama Bob still finds those around him utterly repugnant, and he considers whether or not to carry out what the other gunner started, as well as putting Vanessa out of her misery, of course. The film carries these questions very well it is at times predictable, and occasionally not so, yet it never ceases to lose its sense of intrigue. The film's examination of the way in which humans operate is not intricate, and verges on syrupy at times, yet what is most entertaining about He Was a Quiet Man is its surreal spirit. Furthermore, even in its sweetness, the film explores the lives of disabled persons with a surprising level of insight and honesty . It may be exaggerated, and at times, even humorous, yet its approach is undeniably refreshing, particularly in relation to how the disabled manage to still engage in an active and healthy sex life.
He Was a Quiet Man never remains comfortable, constantly fidgeting and posing new questions for both ourselves and Bob to consider. The film follows through with an insane close, yet it is the most manically reasoned, and therefore, perhaps the most realistic end possible (although term "realism" is a very tenuous one in a film as twisted as this). The ending comes very abruptly, and little is done to satisfy viewer curiosity, yet we are given the vital answers, even if they aren't wholly satisfying, and are a tad questionable. We are left to ponder several things, yet when the preceding ninety minutes are so intentionally devoid of poignance, the film may simply leave your mind as the final frame does.
Christian Slater's latest and greatest effort (at least for a while) is A History of Violence without the graphic violence, Falling Down without the social commentary, and Office Space without the sagacious humour. Yes, it is a blend of all three films, at the cost of diluting each of them. The film's worst crime may be never allowing us to particularly care for Bob (or anyone) as much as we did for D-Fens in Schumacher's film, yet even despite its relative superficiality, He Was a Quiet Man remains a thoroughly entertaining, inventive and quirky film that will have nihilists the world over utterly dumbfounded (myself included). Elisha Cuthbert pulls out a career best (in that she is above tolerable, and even "good"), William H Macy plays the corporate yes-man with glee, and Slater, with great aid from his fabulous make-up department, looks and acts with great hilarity. It is unfortunate that this film, embracing its flaws as it so flagrantly does, has yet to find a large audience, and as such, it instantly becomes one of the indie staples of 2007.