Film Review – The Fanatic (2019)

It is obvious, that John Travolta has poured his blood, sweat and tears into the character of Moose in director, Fred Durst’s (Limp Bizkit – Lead singer) ‘The Fanatic.’ Travolta is known to indulge in overacting from his OTT performance in ‘Broken Arrow,’ his performance in ‘Face Off’ is outstanding and gets away with the villainous exaggeration. However, in ‘The Fanatic,’ Travolta has gone way too far that he should know that the next opportunity to star in a film is to take a step back.

This is the legendary two-time academy award nominee that deserves his hard-earned veteran respect. Who are we to criticise his work and film choices? One would assume that the premise has promise, but sadly fails to deliver due to a bad concoction of director/actor chemistry. Either the director does not know what he wants, or he allows too much freedom for Travolta to improvise. Let’s just say that Spielberg is known to use his actors like puppets. He tells his performers what to do whilst filming, to move or speak in a specific way. If only Fred Durst would meet us in the middle with his direction, the film would have more potential.

The story is inspired by a real-life fan who pursued Limp Bizkit‘s frontman Fred Durst many years ago, and the screenplay was written by Durst and Dave Bekerman. It follows Moose (played by John Travolta), who gets cheated out of meeting his favourite action hero, Hunter Dunbar (played by Devon Sawa). Moose then hunts down Dunbar to get the celebrity interaction he feels he deserves. Harmless at first, Moose’s actions begin to take a dark turn. Against the advice of his friend Leah (Ana Golja), Moose begins to make frequent visits to his hero’s private home. As the visits continue to escalate, Dunbar finds himself in increasing danger.

The word, ‘Stalker’ is the key theme in this film. Is Travolta’s Moose a fanatic or a stalker? It makes the audience ponder if there is a difference between these words. When Moose (Travolta) throws his tantrum “I’m not a stalker,” it becomes apparent that he’s in denial, mentally disabled or has a clear lack of filter. Travolta’s body gestures of rocking back and forth are the common traits of an autistic person. Not once is that word mentioned, and it leaves the audience puzzled of why he behaves the way he does. His character makes us assume he is nothing but a man-child who hasn’t grown out of his obsession of collecting autographs. Playing a mentally disabled character has garnered success for many actors from Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?’ to John Malkovich in ‘Of Mice and Men.’ With John Travolta, his take on a disturbed man doesn’t gel as he tries too hard. Perhaps toning his performance down would have been more plausible or if anything would have stopped him from receiving that Golden Razzie Award for worse actor back in March 2020.

If the film has any morals, it could be that there aren’t any. Perhaps the person you admire and look up to will be a major disappointment when you meet them personally. The character of Hunter Dunbar is unlikable. Obviously, don’t harass a celebrity and respect their privacy goes without saying, but it needs to work both ways. The celebrity shouldn’t be mean, aggressive or insulting to a fan. The problem with ‘The Fanatic’ is the audience find it hard to empathise or a take side with the stalker or the stalked as both characters are unlikable.

Travolta has stated in interviews that he’s very proud of his performance. He would happily place this role up there with Tony Manero and Vincent Vega. This is where we differ. His 100% effort can be admired, but sadly the performance pars along with his characters from ‘Urban Cowboy’ and ‘Battlefield Earth.’ At best ‘The Fanatic’ will be forgotten. At worse it will be treated like ‘The Room’ where the audience heckle at Travolta’s performance in midnight cult screenings. It is a compliment that Travolta mustn’t be treated this way as his good film choices have earned him the respect he deserves. We can’t win them all can we?

Quentin! You’ve revived Michael Madsen on several occasions from a near oblivion career. Please extend Travolta another courtesy like you did for him in ‘Pulp Fiction.’ Give him a chance for the lead role in your tenth and final film. He deserves a rise from his ‘Fanatic’ fall. The box office takings of $3,153 is evidence of this.

Crime, Thriller | USA, 2019 | 15 | DVD, Digital HD | 20th July 2020 (UK) | Dazzler Media | Dir.Fred Durst | John Travolta, Devon Sawa, Ana Golja, Jacob Grodnik