Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Actor's commentary; Director's commentary;
Producer and writer commentary; 5 deleted scenes; Documentary:
'Murder in Scottsdale'; Making of featurette; Theatrical trailer.
PAUL Schrader has made a career out of exploring the darker side
of the human psyche, of exposing obsessive characters who seem
hell-bent on self-destruction.
Best-known for his screenplays, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull,
the director has also delivered such memorable works as American
Gigolo and Affliction.
Now, however, he turns his attentions to Bob Crane, the jovial
star of popular Sixties TV show, Hogan's Heroes, whose charming
persona belied a sordid fascination with sex, which eventually
led to his unsolved murder in an Arizona motel room in 1978.
Greg Kinnear stars as the TV star in question, casting aside
his nice-guy persona to delve into the darker psychology of a
man who had everything - wife, family, and successful career -
only to throw it all away in the sleaziest of circumstances.
Together with best friend, John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), Crane
became something of an industry pariah, renowned for his sexist
remarks and sex obsession.
He and Carpenter - whom he met during a chance on-set encounter
- would pick girls up in bars, using Cranes celebrity, then
take them home and bed them, photographing them along the way,
and frequently filming their exploits without their knowledge.
Yet their relationship was frequently volatile - Crane objected
to Carpenters bisexual tendencies and severed all links
with him at one stage, but felt hopelessly drawn to the sordid
world their friendship offered, frequently professing that a
day without sex, is a day wasted and using Carpenters
extensive knowledge of hi-fi and video to build his collection.
When he was eventually found murdered in his hotel room, Carpenter
was arrested, but never convicted, and died years later having
survived two attempts to prosecute him.
Needless to say, the movie makes for difficult viewing, both
in its depiction of the seedy world in which Crane hung out, and
for the way in which it exposes a life wasted.
Kinnear, in the title role, expertly depicts the stars
fall from grace, from honest family man with the world at his
feet, to sad loner, shunned by the industry and desperate to escape
from the mire he has dug for himself. For while many of his actions
remain deplorable, Kinnear manages to make Crane seem sympathetic
Dafoe, too, exudes sweaty desperation as Carpenter, a leach-like
companion, best described as that person in your life that
you may be much better off never having met.
But Schraders direction also helps to tap into the gradual
demise of a major player, starting out like an idyllic American
sitcom, packed with bright colours and a jovial nature, before
dissolving into the jittery paranoia which enveloped Cranes
mind. It is then that the film becomes washed out and dark.
It may be a difficult journey, but it is one worth taking.