Category Archives: 360

360 Review: Bulletproof Salesman

“Our enemy is low quality…and low prices.”

Fidelis Cloer doesn’t sell cars, he sells “a good feeling.”  A self-proclaimed profiteer, the German businessman creates armored cars that don’t look like tanks, and he sells them to corporations, governments, dignitaries and powerful men who want to avoid being shot or blown up in their own war-torn countries.  Cloer gravitates to regions like Iraq and Afghanistan not because business is booming, but because those countries are; war is an inevitable boon to his trade.   Cloer is so matter-of-fact about his product that the documentary Bulletproof Salesman would feel like a very practiced sales seminar if it weren’t for some of the queasy footage interspersed between him and the filmmakers’ cleverly-presented statistics.

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360 Review: Bronson

“Runnin’ out of choices, really.”

19-year-old Michael Peterson attempted to make a name for himself by committing the 1974 robbery of a local post office, and for the little more than fifty pounds he netted, he was sentenced to seven years in prison.  Of the total 34 years he served by the time Nicolas Winding Refn’s film was made, 30 were spent in solitary confinement due to Peterson’s reputation as “the most violent prisoner in Britain”.

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360 Review: Don’t You Forget About Me

The nice thing about Don’t You Forget About Me, the new documentary on John Hughes, is that it comes from a loving, sweetly reminiscent place in the filmmakers’ hearts.  This is impressively consistent throughout the observations and recollections of the writer/director’s films by a large number of actors, crew members and fans.  What doesn’t work, what truly grates upon the viewer’s nerves, is how sloppily the novice filmmakers go about getting their most important interview: Hughes himself.

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360 Review: Trucker

Trucker starts off with a clever reversal of a familiar scene: two lovers in a roadside motel part ways after rigorous, anonymous sex, one asking when they can see each other again, the other brusquely walking away.  The twist: Diane Ford (Michelle Monaghan) is the one leaving a poor love-struck local man behind.  Diane’s not cold, she just knows How Things Work: she has a date, time and destination where she needs to be to get paid, and that’s all she knows.  Diane is an independent truck driver who’s just recently paid off her rig, and when she’s not making multiple runs across country, she’s taking comfort in the awkward friendship she maintains with Runner (Nathan Fillion), who doesn’t let his marriage get in the way of Seventies Dance Night at the VFW.

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360 Review: Big Fan

Robert Siegel’s Big Fan has only one thing going for it: a brave performance by comedian Patton Oswalt.  But because Oswalt plays such an unflinchingly sociopathic loser, the film becomes hard to care about.

Paul Aufiero (Oswalt) is little more than a man-child with a pathological interest in the New York Giants’ performance.   He and his friend Sal (the terrific and underused Kevin Corrigan) go to every Giants game, but sit in the parking lot and watch on television.  They eat and drink junk food like children (“Anything in a green bottle is gonna kill you.”), and when Paul isn’t watching the game, he’s working as a parking lot attendant, crafting carefully-worded diatribes he can spout off during a local sports radio show.   Paul lives with his mother, and his room looks like a child’s, capped off by a poster of his quarterback hero above his bed.

But when Paul and Sal see the player at a local gas station, they decide to follow him into town to a strip club where Paul misspeaks, causing the QB to pound him into a coma.  Once awake, Paul’s mania becomes clearer: less interested in the doctor’s report than Sal’s game updates, Paul fakes amnesia to prevent a local cop (Matt Servitto) from getting an incriminating statement that will keep the QB off the field, and the Giants out of the win column.

Paul’s relatives seem to accept his life, making the same protestations about his nowhere existence at family gatherings but never pressing him to change.  Once injured, his lawyer brother Jeff (Gino Cafarelli) pushes him to sue, but Paul won’t hear of it.  Fixated on making sure the Giants win their crucial few remaining games, he shuts down any sensible input.  And with an arch-enemy like “Philadelphia Phil” taunting him nightly on the radio, Paul ends up acting out in a drastic and foolish way.

Siegel does a nice job as a first-time director, though the story is so scant that we’re treated to multiple montages and drawn-out scenes that seem to pad the film’s run time.  And Oswalt makes such a compelling schlub, you hate that the character is ultimately so unlikable.  When Paul sees an article about the outcome of his choices, there is a misguided pride that creeps across his face; he knows what he’s done and yet he cannot tell anyone for fear of being known as The Guy Whose Hero Pummeled Him.

With its focus on a truly unpleasant character (no matter how well-played) and a leftover sense of wanting, Big Fan is ultimately lacking.  To quote Sal: “You don’t go for 2 when you could have gone for 4.”  

(Big Fan is currently available on DVD and Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” service, which can be viewed via an XBOX 360.)