‘The Fanatic’ review: John Travolta as a troubled devotee

  • Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
    Published: 2019-08-30 03:08:28 BdST

Cast member John Travolta attends the premiere for the film "The Fanatic" in Los Angeles, California, US, August 22, 2019. Reuters

Whatever one thinks of Limp Bizkit, the Fred Durst-fronted band has undoubtedly counted some aggressive knuckleheads in its fan base. Similarly, a lot of fellows identify so steadfastly with the movie characters Tony Manero and Danny Zuko that John Travolta, the actor who played them, has felt their devotion in uncomfortable ways.

For as much resentment as these celebrities may want to vent about their pushier fans, there’s still no excuse for the hatefulness of “The Fanatic,” which Durst directs and Travolta stars in.

Hauling considerable paunch and sporting the worst looking hair of his entire career, Travolta plays Moose, a genre-movie enthusiast and autograph hound. The abrupt and awkward Moose appears to be on the autism spectrum. The only characters who seem aware of his condition are the lowlifes of Hollywood Boulevard who bully him. Everyone else interacts with him as if he’s just rude.

A man-child with a good deal of self-pity and almost zero empathy, Moose is particularly fixated on the action-movie star Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa). After failing to get his movie collection signed at a store appearance, Moose starts encroaching on Hunter’s personal space in ever more aggressive ways.

This territory was more profitably explored by Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy.” For that matter, it was more profitably explored in the miles-more-trashy Tony Scott movie “The Fan.” Durst has a good eye for LA’s seamy underbelly. But he’s also annoyingly disingenuous, as when he signals Dunbar’s regular-guy quality by having him play a Bizkit tune for his kid while out for a drive.

As it lumbers to its climax, the movie delineates the border that separates the merely stale from the genuinely rancid. For all the heavy lifting “The Fanatic” does, it winds up on the weaker side of the divide.—

‘The Fanatic'

Rated R for violence, language, staleness. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes.


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