What at first looked like a different version of Taxi Driver (set in an office instead of a cab) turned into a film reminiscent of Donnie Darko (with no time travel plot device). If you are confused with what happened, you are not alone. Perhaps, an explanation is needed for those still bewildered with the ending of the film. Before you read on, remember this will spoil the movie if you haven’t seen it yet.
If you go back to the point where Bob Maconel (Christian Slater) takes his lunch outside for the first time, you will understand the ending better. The point of the scene, which has Bob blowing up his workplace with the pressing of a red button, was to trick the audience with a director’s hoax and to reveal Bob’s darker side with a wishful dream. After this point, the audience should be aware that the director is willing to trick them in future scenes of the movie.
Keeping the explosion scene in mind, and add to it the fact that Bob has conversations with eye-bulging goldfish, we understand Bob is not grounded in the real world. The goldfish is a physical representation or extension of Bob’s id, the side of his personality not restrained by any moral code. But the problem is Bob doesn’t have the courage to translate his dark dreams into action. He tries, but continually backs away, not so much for the reasons of moral character, but out of fear of failure. He thinks he will screw it up just like everything else in his life.
Now flash forward to the scene where Bob arms his gun for the second time. He fumbles with the sixth bullet (the one he will use on himself) and it falls to the floor and rolls under his desk into the open walkway outside his cubicle. Fearing discovery, he jumps under his desk to find it and we hear gunshots go off. This is where we return to Bob’s dream world. The stress of the situation triggers it and everything after, until the point where we see Bob step on the lost bullet, is fantasy.
Bob transfers his murderous feelings onto a fellow employee who executes Bob’s black desires. Bob then shoots the employee and becomes the hero of his workplace. He even gets the office’s most attractive female (Elisha Cuthbert), albeit in the only form he thinks is believable (she becomes a paraplegic after surviving the shooting). He is promoted to an executive position and comes under the eye of the corporate slut, everything is working out for Bob.
Director Frank A. Cappello knows that if he shows Bob becoming sexually confident and comfortable leader of men, what his new position would normally inspire, we would conclude we are participating in a fantasy. So, he shows Bob as fumbling and awkward as he was before his good fortune. The trick even becomes more deceptive when we see that Bob’s new position is ridiculous: Executive of Forward Thinking. This title has dual meaning; it makes the fantasy more believable for the audience (a token position as a reward for his heroics), but it also reinforces the fact that we are still, in fact, watching a dream sequence (when you return to the scene after the film has finished you realize that no sane business owner would actually create such a position).
Once we return to reality (when we see Bob step on the bullet), we are astounded to comprehend that only seconds have passed. Bob uses the results of his fantasy (by the end he is discovered as a potential threat by the staff psychiatrist) to gather the courage to implement his murderous plans. Bob leaves the bullet on the carpet and walks toward the water cooler where the worse of his tormentor’s (the corporate slut) is standing. Cappello decides to further complicate matters by having the corporate slut transform into Vanessa (Cuthbert) when she turns to face Bob.
Capello leaves the finale as an open question. Does it mean that Bob, because he fantasized about the mistaken shooting of Vanessa by the coworker, really wants to shoot Vanessa? Or is Cappello making a slick correlation to increase the “coolness” of his film (think of all the films where you believe the plot is solved until the movie ends with a twist)? Or, is Bob completely lost in a fantasy world and nothing in the film from beginning to end is grounded in reality? Whatever the answer might be, there is no argument that He Was a Quiet Man is a thought-provoking and entertaining film.
He Was a Quiet Man Trailer:
He Was a Quiet Man Gallery:
Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
7 December 2007 (UK)
Frank A. Cappello
Christian Slater, Jamison Jones, Anzu Lawson, John Gulager, Elisha Cuthbert