Review: ‘The Fanatic’ is patently problematic.

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John Travolta is one of the most iconic actors with his wide range of roles from Grease to Saturday Night Fever and then his triumphant comeback in Pulp Fiction. His portrayal of hitman Vincent is sexy and cool. It reminded us what we had been missing after years of mediocre roles. Travolta was a bonafide Hollywood movie star. That’s what makes him producing and starring in a The Fanatic so damn perplexing.

Moose is a rabid movie fan who is obsessed with his favourite celebrity action hero, Hunter Dunbar. When he is cheated out of his opportunity to finally meet Hunter, Moose gets a little help from his friend Leah, a well-connected paparazzi photographer, who knows how to find celebrity homes. Moose turns to stalking to get the celebrity interaction he feels he deserves, and while harmless at first, Moose’s actions begin to take a dark turn as his obsession grows stronger. As the visits continue to escalate, Hunter Dunbar finds himself in increasing danger.

Devon Sawa, who I admittedly had posters of on my wall at summer camp, is actually perfect in the role of Hunter. It’s almost a meta role in the sense that Sawa starred in films like Final Destination and Idle Hands, making him a young genre name in the industry. While I’m not sure if he’s had any insane fan encounters, I’m sure he’s had his privacy ripped from him. As one of his followers on social media, I can see a caring father, a loving pet owner, a sense of humor, and someone who gladly interacts with his fans. The final 20 minutes of the film is filled with a visceral fear and very brutal physical violence. With everything that Sawa is given in this script, he does a fantastic job making it feel very real on his end.


Then we have Travolta. While never flatly stated in the film, Travolta’s Moose is very clearly on the autism spectrum. Bouts of echolalia, full-body rocking, and expressly missing social cues lead the audience to feed off his anxiety.  Sounds like a superb character study but to be quite frank, his over the top idiosyncrasies are borderline offensive. While I can appreciate the guts it takes to approach what on paper appears to be a complex and challenging role, the work does not reflect the responsibility that comes with tackling something so specific. I  say that as both a former teacher and as a mother of a child who has been diagnosed on the spectrum. Writer-Director Fred Durst should have done a bit more research when it comes to behavioral triggers. He is as much in the hot seat for this performance (if not more) as Travolta. The character of Moose is not simply eccentric. The choice to utilize a neurodivergent character to garner sympathy puts the viewer in a difficult spot, especially during the climax, which I’m assuming is the point. Who is the real villain here? I honestly don’t know the answer.


There were glimpses of greatness here. Ana Golja‘s noir-inspired narration sparked my interest immediately but basically became pointless. The biggest highlight for me was the stop-motion animation drawings that appeared in transition. Like the voice-over narration, they initially gave me pause because they are unique and beautiful. The Fanatic could have been something special. We could have seen a story about actual eccentricity and obsession instead of relying on exploitation.

THE FANATIC stars Academy-Award nominee John Travolta (Pulp Fiction, Face/Off, Grease), Devon Sawa (Final Destination, Idle Hands) and Ana Golja (“Degrassi: Next Class,” Full Out). The film is directed by Fred Durst (The Education of Charlie Banks), frontman of the rock band “Limp Bizkit,” from a script co-written by Durst and Dave Bekerman.

Quiver Distribution will release the thriller THE FANATIC in theaters on August 30, 2019 and on Digital and On Demand on September 6, 2019.

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