William H Macy
He was a Quiet Man focuses on Bob: an generic trampled office drone with a deranged streak, who fantasises daily about taking a gun to his workplace and murdering a hit-list of hated colleagues. The catch is that, on the day Bob finally decides to go postal, a fellow co-worker beats him to it, and so by having his gun ready and loaded Bob is jolted in a moment from murderer to hero.
Its a neat idea but writer/director Frank Cappello doesnt know what to do with it. For a serious drama the characters are too thin and stereotypical: Bob is a TV-cop-show nutcase who talks to his goldfish, and his boss (played by the ever-watchable William H Macy) has an implausible amount of time for the insignificant cogs of his company. For a dark comedy it takes its issues too seriously are we seriously meant to care about Bobs anger, or the net (riddled with plot-holes) that closes around him? Its also almost a love story, between Bob and Vanessa (Elisha Cuthbert), the office bombshell who is left paralysed by the gunman and whom he (again, implausibly) ends up looking after.
Its a good thing he does, however, as Cuthbert is the best thing in the film by a mile. Playing a paraplegic unable to move from the neck down is hardly easy, especially since most disability drama treats severe physical impairment as the first step towards some kind of moral absolution. Not so here: Vanessa is a manipulative bitch, used to using her body to get what she wants, who quickly discovers she can still use it to control all the men around her.
Its a daring bit of characterisation and it pays off excellently. Cuthbert lets rip despite the constraints of wheelchair and neck-brace she is sharp, witty, demanding and powerful relishing her first real role, after the disgraces of Captivity and the tedium of constant kidnapping in her breakthrough appearance as Jack Bauers daughter in 24 (though there does seem to be a running theme of entrapment). On the basis of the middle third of A Quiet Man, however, one can hope she will finally escape to better things.
Slater is also good, putting in the kind of performance that makes reviewers use words like unrecognisable despite the fact we can all see Slaters intelligent face behind the thick glasses and moustache. He dissolves himself into the role but sadly his acting his better than the script hes given, for although A Quiet Mans portrayal of physical disability is unusual its depiction of mental illness is the same hackneyed collection of hallucinations and voice-overs Hollywood is so fond of, making Bob a convenient character heading for an inevitable and rather cruel conclusion.
The details of the plot is riddled with unlikely conveniences, and the details are hurried and forgettable. The visuals are occasionally striking most notably the traffic on the roads, which is sped up as the world passes Bob by. But in the end, A Quiet Man is an uninteresting film held together by Slater and Macy and, like Bob himself, is only brought given life for a moment by the efforts of Cuthbert.