He Was a Quiet Man & r & & r & by JACOB H. FRIES & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & he premise of He Was a Quiet Man is promising, a twist on the classic white-man alienation story in the style of Falling Down, Fight Club and the comedic Office Space. There's the antisocial cubicle worker Bob (Christian Slater), who's abused and underappreciated by his boss and impotent with the ladies. At home, he talks with his fish and they talk back, goading him to be a man of action. As his isolation grows, he fantasizes about killing his colleagues and brings a gun to work. But then, at the moment of truth, something happens, and Bob inadvertently finds himself a reluctant hero. It's the dream of every awkward, antisocial loser: Be the hero, get the girl, live happily ever after. A comfortable premise and a decent leading man -- what could go wrong?

While Bob gets a new life (for at least the moment), he remains a loser who can't sustain meaningful relationships. But he's not the only one with the problem; everyone in the film is weak, despicable, mean. There's no love, and Bob is still unhinged in the world. Incredibly, all this human drama -- life, death, rebirth -- has meant nothing. Everything is, for all practical purposes, the same: The wicked are still wicked; the weak, still weak. And as a viewer, I couldn't care less. Bob isn't a hero or even a good guy; he's pathetic. Let 'em all die.

There are some redeeming performances: Slater plays the sweaty, unkempt misanthrope quite convincingly, and the camera is at times so close to him that we feel his awkwardness. Bob's boss (played by William H. Macy) also does his part to move the story forward. But in the end, there's little to engage viewers. Moments of tension, with characters at crossroads, fail because the characters are not likable. Of course, not every story needs a happy ending, but even an indie flick needs to give us a reason to watch -- be it great visuals or a philosophical message or even just decent fart jokes. (Unrated)

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