The Fanatic

We’re not fanatical about this film

Remember when Limp Bizkit was cool? Me neither, but front man Fred Durst has rather surprisingly been crafting a career as a film director after the glory days of the rap-rock band. Believe it or not, but The Fanatic is Durst’s third outing as a director, but unfortunately it looks a lot like a poor first attempt at crafting a movie.

John Travolta plays Moose, a slightly awkward but kind-hearted movie fan, who gets a chance to meet his idol, Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa), but it all goes terribly wrong after Moose feels rejected by the moody action star. Moose then goes above and beyond to win Hunter’s affection, and soon his actions take a sinister turn.

There’s a lot to like in The Fanatic. It taps into a fascinating subject matter and occasionally even manages to make something of it, but mostly this is just a generic thriller that relies too much on Travolta’s star power. Durst, who’s also on writing duties with Dave Bekerman, clearly can’t create natural dialogue; the conversations just don’t flow and every scene is infused with so much exposition, you don’t really have to even be watching the screen to keep up with what’s happening here. Not that much does actually happen. The film might market itself as a tense thriller but there’s a long wait for the good stuff to kick in. Even then, it is very tame both in tone and violence.

Travolta, who has hit a bit of snag in his career, puts in a lot of effort. While his performance is admirably physical in portraying someone who is on the spectrum, it still manages to offend due to the broad strokes that are used to paint the character. The Fanatic is yet another film which connects disability with violence; the narrative lacks any kind of refinement and nuance, leaving the film to be not only offensive, but completely incorrect.

Devon Sawa, probably best known for the first (and superior) Final Destination film, seems to be on autopilot here. If more attention had have been paid to the dynamic of the characters or more nuance in their characterisation, this could have been a compelling look at the symbiotic relationships between fans and stars, the sacrifices both make and the roles it includes. However, Dunbar is portrayed here as an arrogant, aggressive movie star who treats Moose unfairly.

Durst does try to highlight that Moose has broken all sorts of boundaries but it’s never really clear where the empathy of the film lies. With Moose, who just wants to be liked and wants to get his movie prop vest autographed or with Dunbar who just wants, and has every right to, his privacy at home? It’s a fair question, how much do the stars owe their fans and although Moose clearly trespasses, Durst never really passes judgement on his actions. Todd Phillips’ Joker had the same problem, but at least Joker had an impressive lead performance and some style to it. Despite a haunting last 60 seconds, The Fanatic is likely to just go down in film history as an embarrassing effort for both Durst and Travolta.

The Fanatic is available digitally June 8th and on DVD from July 20th.

Maria Lattila

Updated: Jun 07, 2020

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