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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.25%
Worth A Look: 37.68%
Pretty Bad: 13.04%
Total Crap: 1.45%

8 reviews, 21 user ratings

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Auto Focus
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by Preston Jones

"Col. Hogan's slow burn deeply disturbs"
4 stars

Addiction of any kind is never an easy topic to deal with. The often-harrowing tales of being sucked into the maelstrom of impulses seemingly beyond control can make for some pretty compelling cautionary tales.

As with Darren Aronofsky’s blistering 2000 film Requiem for a Dream, powerfully made films about addiction and their effects can make for masterful cinema—which is exactly what director Paul Schrader (Affliction, Raging Bull) creates with his latest effort, Auto Focus.
The film, which chronicles the life and death of Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear), a TV star who got his 15 minutes thanks to a modest late ‘60s hit show, “Hogan’s Heroes,” a sitcom set in a World War II POW camp. While his public persona was that of the smiling, snarky Colonel Hogan, off screen, Crane became addicted to sex and slid into a morass of moral decay that slowly destroyed him.
The story opens with Crane hosting a morning show on a Los Angeles radio station, fresh off his minor role on the Donna Reed Show. His agent offers up the “Hogan’s Heroes” pilot script, and initially, Crane rejects it—fearing a show about “funny Nazis” would end his career.
With persuasion from his supportive wife Annie (Rita Wilson), Crane takes on the role of Col. Hogan and overnight, his life shifts into overdrive. Fame accords him opportunities he’d never dreamed of and introduces him to John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe—and not to be confused with the director of Halloween), an audio/video technician who is friends with Crane’s cast mates.
Carpenter helps introduce Crane to the seamy world of swinging, orgies and nude photography; Carpenter’s job affords him access to all the latest visual recording equipment, which he and Crane use to score with woman after woman. Soon, Crane’s marriage dissolves and he becomes adrift, lost in a sea of decadence and unable to extract himself. Carpenter’s not-so-subtle homosexual passes at Crane, which he strongly rebuffs, serve only to negatively intensify their relationship.
Crane’s life spins further out of his control, building to a well documented but nonetheless heartbreaking conclusion. For those who aren’t familiar with Crane’s demise, he was bludgeoned and strangled to death in an Arizona hotel room in 1978, with the murderer never being captured. Several conspiracy theories have sprung up around Crane’s murder, but none have ever been proven.
Schrader crafts an indelible portrait of a man unable to keep himself slipping over into the precipice; the frantic surrealism of the final third is riveting stuff, building to the inevitable climax. Michael Gerbosi’s script never stoops to the “True Hollywood Story” level, instead focuses on the human elements of Crane’s sordid drama.
Kinnear is simply stunning and gives the performance of his career to date as Crane, and I would be shocked if he wasn’t up for a Best Actor award come March. Dafoe also shines, making the most out of an unsympathetic character and breathing life into what could’ve been quite one-dimensional. The rest of the cast also excels, particularly Maria Bello as Crane’s second wife, Patricia.

Auto Focus is not a fun ride, but adventurous viewers should not miss this excellent docu-drama that features one of the best performances of the year from Greg Kinnear. I can guarantee that you’ll never watch “Hogan’s Heroes” the same way again.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 11/20/02 12:18:11
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/18/14 Ofmnzhuz This is perhaps the best selling female artist from Barbados to receive Jesus. White and se 2 stars
2/13/14 WDXsCnPgcSFqvb sverige.txt;1 3 stars
9/04/09 RLan Good performance by Kinnear but the movie could have been better. 3 stars
10/29/04 ODH This flicks was funny and at the same time well acted. Bob Crane was one sick puppy!!! 4 stars
5/29/04 Suzette Kinnear was fantasitc!! 5 stars
2/24/04 tatum Supporting cast disappears, but Kinnear and Dafoe are excellent 4 stars
1/25/04 Patricia Rohr Great Performances. A film about a guy who used his position to get laid. 4 stars
1/11/04 Atanu Great review by chris parry 4 stars
1/09/04 Jack Sommersby Watchable, but there's no essential view of the material. 2 stars
10/18/03 Jinnvisible I asked for my money back at the video rental store,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,and they gave it back!!!! 1 stars
9/13/03 Ant A genuinely interesting study of a man's rise a fall. Kinnear is brilliant. 4 stars
6/25/03 quasi Don't bother unless you are seriously bored. 3 stars
4/29/03 Andrew Carden Kinnear Is Amazing, Dafoe Provides Great Support. Delightful. 5 stars
4/03/03 The Good Crane Son Yeah, not too INTERESTING per se, but perfect acting and lots of celeb taboo is always fun 5 stars
3/17/03 Paul Coleman Yes....John Carpenter murdered Bob Crane. Great performances. 4 stars
11/16/02 Robert Scott Crane Boring. Innacurate. Waste of Time. 2 stars
11/10/02 Mipchunk Interesting movie but it feels just like a biography, nothing really to learn from it. 3 stars
11/09/02 spaceworm Ick! 4 stars
11/08/02 Suzz good performances; great study of the slippery slope to depravity 5 stars
11/03/02 rue the whirl fascinating story. 4 stars
10/25/02 Gobblygook I enjoyed this movie. Performances were great. Much funnier than intense though. 5 stars
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  18-Oct-2002 (R)



Directed by
  Paul Schrader

Written by
  Paul Schrader

  Greg Kinnear
  Willem Dafoe
  Maria Bello
  Kurt Fuller
  Rita Wilson
  Lyle Kanouse

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