Auto Focus (18)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner03/03/2003

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 105 mins

Decent biopic with impressive period detail and great performances from both Kinnear and Dafoe.

Writer-director Paul Schrader has always been interested in the more offbeat celebrities (Patty Hearst, Yukio Mishima, Jesus) and his latest film continues that trend. Bob Crane may not be the household name in the UK that he was in America, but in the 1960s, Crane was the most famous sitcom star in the country, thanks to his starring role on POW sitcom Hogan’s Heroes. However, Schrader’s film is less interested in Crane’s life story than in his sordid private life that eventually led to his violent murder in 1978.

Chance Encounter Leads To Porn Marathon

Greg Kinnear plays Crane and the film begins with him landing the job as Hogan, off the back of his stint as a California DJ. Shortly afterwards, he has a chance encounter with techno wizard John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe) and the two begin a friendship that will change his life. Both men share an obsessive interest in sex, technology and pornography, so it isn’t long before Carpenter is providing the recording equipment for Crane to indulge his penchant for amateur porn…

In fact, it’s the relationship between Crane and Carpenter that forms the emotional core of the film – Crane’s divorce and second marriage are both featured but are given substantially less weight.

Crucially, it’s left to the audience to decide what was really going on, although a hilarious scene in which Crane replays an orgy tape for Carpenter and then accuses him of groping his arse during group sex gives you a pretty good idea.

Superb Performances

Both actors are excellent. Kinnear’s characters have always seemed to lack depth in the past and here he has found a role that perfectly exploits his shallow side, while still remaining a likeable character. Dafoe, too, is brilliantly cast – Carpenter is a complex character, needy and seedy in equal measure and Dafoe’s performance ensures that he is both truly pathetic and yet, still sympathetic.

There’s also good support from the likes of Rita Wilson and Maria ‘Coyote Ugly’ Bello (as Crane’s wives) but really, the film belongs to the two leads. There are also some nice touches along the way (the sitcom scenes, the opening credits), as well as some impressively colourful period recreation of the 1960s.

In short, this is definitely worth seeing for the performances by Kinnear and Dafoe and should also be of interest to anyone with an appetite for Hollywood Sleaze. Recommended.

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Content updated: 18/11/2017 01:04

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