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Friday, January 4, 2008 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

Love — and violence — at the office

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

"He Was a Quiet Man," with Christian Slater, Elisha Cuthbert, William H. Macy, Sascha Knopf, Jamison Jones.

Written and directed by Frank A. Cappello. 95 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains violence). Galleria 11.

He was, said a neighbor, a quiet man. He kept to himself, said another. No one knew him well. He lived in a nondescript house with a yard that wasn't as nicely trimmed as those bordering it, and he went off to work every day in his short-sleeved dress shirts and mousy glasses, carrying a sad little lunch that he always ate alone. In an ill-lit cubicle, he crunched meaningless numbers all day and nurtured a silent crush on a co-worker with a pretty smile, to whom he never dared to speak and who didn't know his name. He was mocked by a few, and a friend to no one. Nobody knew that in his desk was a loaded gun.

It's a familiar story; one we sometimes read in newspapers after a workplace shooting, and in Frank A. Cappello's film — which won best feature at Seattle's True Independent Film Festival last summer — it gets just a bit of a spin. Bob Maconel (Christian Slater) is the greasy-haired misfit at its center, toiling in the sort of workplace "Office Space" sent up so well. (The name of the slickly generic company — we're never told exactly what sort of work anyone is doing — is A.D.D.) So anonymous he parks in a space labeled "Other," Bob's dreary life is quickly established, with his finger rubbing on the gun he hopes to use on his co-workers. And then, 10 minutes into the movie, somebody else decides to embark on a killing spree at the office, and Bob — too slow to the trigger — becomes the most unlikely of heroes.

This sounds darkly funny, and I suspect with the right audience "He Was a Quiet Man" might well play as black comedy. But Slater, disappearing into his role, brings a note of earnest desperation to his performance that's hard to laugh at, and hard to look away from.

The film becomes a strange love story, as Bob connects with his now-disabled co-worker (Elisha Cuthbert) and finds a shaky confidence at work, championed by his smarmy new boss (William H. Macy). A not-unexpected twist at the end brings the story around full circle; we never know, it turns out, what quiet men are thinking.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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