Review: 'The Fanatic', John Travolta Embraces Crazy In Fred Durst's Bizarre Stalker Film

The Fanatic is one helluva thing. Color me stunned, STUNNED, when the trailer for this John Travolta/Fred Durst concoction debuted mere weeks, promising levels of B-movie craziness usually reserved for Travolta's Face/Off counterpart, Nicolas Cage. I have to believe if Travolta and the Limp Bizkit frontman weren't pals this would totally be "A Nic Cage Joynt", but it's up to the former Bubble Boy to steer us through this maniacal trainwreck that is so wild it simply must be experienced.

The plot of The Fanatic bears resemblance to other Hollywood stalker flicks such as The Fan, but if that movie was too complex for you, who better to turn to than the guy who told us to "Keep Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'" (YEAH!!). Travolta plays the unfortunately-named Moose, and even his name seems like both an insult and some kind of inside joke. Clearly somewhere so deep on the spectrum that he borders on mentally ill, Moose loves his simple life in Los Angeles. He doesn't have much, but he gets to entertain tourists pretending to be an English bobby, taking pictures and shouting "Poppycock!"(seriously) at anybody who pays him attention. Moose is obsessed with movies, everything about them, but his great passion is for horror actor Hunter Dunbar (Devon Sawa), a favorite from his role in Space Vampires. But Moose, shockingly, doesn't understand the concept of personal space. A pair of near-violent altercations with Hunter at autograph signings flips a switch in Moose, and turning to his paparazzi friend Leah (Ana Golja) he gets the actor's address and becomes very hard to get rid of at that point.

It's clear Durst, who also co-wrote the script, has some personal feel for the material as a celeb himself. He's undoubtedly dealt with his share of toxic fans, been scorched by a social media culture that creates a fan connection too close for some to separate themselves from. And he tries to show a bit of nuance here. Moose, for all of his awkward Hawaiian shirts and Sherwood Forest haircuts, is a fan who has fallen dangerously in love with his fandom. In today's culture where fans issue death threats at those they feel have ruined a beloved franchise, The Fanatic feels shockingly relevant. There's an ambiguity to Moose's actions, even the violent ones, that will have you questioning how responsible he is for his actions. At the same time, Hunter is pretty much a dickhead at all times, but is he not due some measure of privacy? If you had a twitchy, possibly psychotic Moose in your driveway all the time, how would you react? And would it be different for an actor who has a Hollywood-crafted tough guy mystique to hold on to? I don't know if this was intentional or not, but casting Sawa, who played a toxic fan in Eminem's "Stan" video, may have gone a long way informing his performance which is genuinely quite good.

It's entirely possible I'm reading more into the film than is actually there because damn, the script is some straight garbage and the Moose character is off in outer space somewhere. Durst and co-writer Dave Bekerman supposedly based the story on something that actually happened, but I like to believe life has better pacing and plotting than this. This is a movie where Moose, who is damned impossible not to notice even in L.A., can accidentally kill somebody in an actor's front yard, leave them there, and it's like nobody remembered it until the editor sent them a memo. There's a scene where Durst puts himself over by having a character recall how "hot" Limp Bizkit used to be, snapping you right out if by chance you were even marginally engrossed. The entire final act plays out just as incoherently, with neither Moose or Hunter making choices that anybody in real life would make. Then again, maybe Durst doesn't feel as if Hollywood is real life? Oooooh, deep. Whatever his feelings, Durst has a long way to go as a filmmaker. The Fanatic is an aggressively crude and ugly movie to look at, with characters that are pretty repulsive. Durst is too inexperienced to realize when his movie needs a little something different, maybe a dose of humor, just to break it out of a funk. It's like he's trying to make his idea of what a gritty L.A. drama should look like.

Travolta is a consummate professional and he does his best to keep The Fanatic afloat through the sheer lunacy of his performance. I have to give him credit for being the best damn reason to seek this movie out. He completely commits himself to the role of Moose, all of his social tics, awkward gestures, and repeated insistence that he is NOT A STALKER! I could watch Travolta play this role in a dozen movies he dives into it so far, and at times you feel as trapped in Moose's fantasy world as he is. In his mind, the celebrities he loves feel the same way towards him, and you can see the confusion in his eyes when Hunter reacts negatively. Travolta's acting his ass off in those moments. In others, when he reduces Moose to a quivering, shaking, drooling stereotype the likes of which have been shunned from screens for years, you wonder if he's just trying to make this movie the campy shlock it was clearly meant to be. I'm not sure Durst knows that, though, or at least he only knows it half the time. Part of what makes The Fanatic so bizarre is that one moment you can see Durst and Travolta really playing at making a serious statement movie, such as it is, and then the next Moose is telling us that he's "gotta poo."  You can get whiplash trying to keep up. Honestly, I'd take 100% more "poo" than Durst trying to make himself into a self-serious auteur. Just embrace the crazy and keep rollin' rollin' rollin'.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5