Remember Tony Scott’s 1996 psychological thriller “The Fan”? Robert De Niro played a rabid San Francisco Giants fan obsessed with their star outfielder played by Wesley Snipes. You could hardly call it a great movie yet it’s one that at least knows its bat crazy. For that reason it’s a movie I tend to enjoy despite its glaring absurdity. I can’t say the same for “The Fanatic”.
Former Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst (yes that Fred Durst) conceived the story, co-wrote the screenplay, and directs this uncomfortably ugly and seemingly pointless look at celebrity obsession. Along the way it dabbles in some toothless black humor (I think), fails to generate an ounce of tension, and features a cringe-worthy portrayal of autism/mental health, linking it to this twisted stalker mentality without any real distinction. I think Durst is trying to say society collectively is to blame but it’s really hard to glean much from this mess.
John Travolta plays an autistic street performer in Los Angeles named Moose. He is a huge fan of horror movies and he particularly loves the films of Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa). In fact you could say he is a little (say it with me) obsessed. Moose collects celebrity autographs and getting one from Hunter Dunbar would be the top prize of his collection. But every attempt has blown up in his face.
The film goes to great lengths to show the bad hand life has dealt Moose. His street acting gig is going nowhere. He’s constantly bullied by a punk street illusionist. And he’s trashed by his idol once he finally gets to meet him. His one-and-only friend is a well-meaning paparazzi photographer (Ana Golja) who naively does more to fuel his obsessive behavior than quell it.
By now I’m sure you can see where this is going. Moose snaps and takes his fan-love for Dunbar to creepy, compulsive, pathological places. It’s here that the already laboring script completely falls apart. The haphazard final act is utterly ridiculous and full of head-scratching turns and unsightly violence that seems yanked out of thin air. Good luck making sense of any of it.
To be fair Travolta attacks the role with every bit of authenticity he can muster. The hideous haircut and loud patterned shirts do him no favors, but it’s not a mean-spirited portrayal. It’s simply a misguided one that really has nothing of value to say. But that’s not as much Travolta’s fault as it is the script. His commitment to the performance is unquestioned, but the entire movie feels off-target starting with Moose’s very first line of eye-rolling dialogue “I can’t talk too long. I gotta poo.”
“The Fanatic” takes a little from “The Fan”, a little from “Misery”, and even a dash of “Reservoir Dogs” but none of it makes for a particularly good movie experience. On one hand it’s kind of entrancing watching Travolta wrestle with such a rudderless story. On the other hand you would be much better served by taking my word for it rather than losing the 88 minutes that you’ll never get back.
VERDICT – 1.5 STARS