The Fanatic is a 2019 thriller starring John Travolta, Devon Sawa, and directed by Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. It tells the story of Moose, an obsessive fan on the autistic spectrum who takes his love for his favorite actor, action star Hunter Dunbar, a couple of steps too far. The film was met with almost immediate critical scorn, and was a massive box office failure. But, being me, the man who doesn’t give a shit what anybody else thinks when it comes to movies, I decided to give it a look myself. And what was the outcome??
I liked it. I really liked it. Like legitimately. Not in a so bad, it’s good way.
First, let’s get to the pros: The main one being the central performance of Travolta as Moose. A lot of the criticism of this movie was aimed directly at Travolta’s performance, calling it over the top, ridiculous, tone deaf and whatnot. But I thought his performance was fantastic. He really pulled out all the stops and just went for broke. He makes Moose loveable, sympathetic, infuriating, and heartbreaking. A great performance indeed.
Ana Goljia is also excellent in the film as Leah, a paparazzi who is also Moose’s best friend, and unintentional enabler to Moose’s stalking.
Fred Durst brings his A-game as well, crafting a fast moving but highly involving thriller. And a good looking one too. The film features some downright superb cinematography from Conrad W. Hall, the director of photography behind such genre favorites as Panic Room, The Punisher, & Olympus has Fallen.
One thing I really liked about this is the question it asks of you with the presentation of the characters and the situation at hand. Like whose side can you really be on? While Moose is loveable, his actions are 100% condemnable. And even though Dunbar comes off as an supreme asshole to Moose in their initial interactions, and he kind of goes a bit too far in places in his “treatment” of Moose, you do understand why he goes as far as he does. Look at everything Moose does. Can you really blame Dunbar?
But now, onto the cons: There’s a few moments where it seems that scenes were rearranged to appear in different spots than initially intended, and it’s noticeable. Also, the ending is somewhat abrupt. There’s a final image that implies what the resolution of Moose will be, but I would’ve like to have seen a bit more than that.
But my biggest pet peeve with the film is the casting of Devon Sawa as Hunter Dunbar. Now, this is not a strike against his performance. Sawa is very good in the film. But… I just don’t buy him in the role. The film portrays the character of Hunter Dunbar as some sort of Stallone or Schwarzenegger style action star, and Sawa is completely wrong for that kind of part. While he is physically commanding (dude looks shredded), he is entirely too young to pull that off.
They needed someone older, and with more action movie appeal. Someone like Dolph Lundgren, or Michael Dudikoff, or hell, even Nicolas Cage, and do a FACE/OFF reunion. As is, I don’t buy this middle aged stalker being obsessed with a star who looks like he just left his 30s. And another thing, the titles of the movies Hunter Dunbar “stars” in sound like the most generic, low budget shit ever. Space Vampires?? Vampire Killers?? Who was he making movies for, A-Pix Entertainment??
But all in all, I found The Fanatic to be quite the entertaining film. The acting was great, the filmmaking/storytelling was fine, and the problems were minor. So I don’t understand what the problem was with the critics. But hey, as long as I enjoyed it, that’s all that matters.