Plot: Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear) had enjoyed a taste of fame and fortune, but once Hogan’s Heroes hit the airwaves, his star skyrocketed and he had access to a lifestyle that he never imagined. The show was a smash success and wherever Crane went, rabid fans were sure to recognize him and want to meet Hogan himself. While he prided himself on being a family man and a faithful husband, he had never been tempted like he was now, as countless women now noticed him. While he resists at first, once he meets John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), Crane begins to consider taking advantage of his newfound stardom. Carpenter is an tech expert who supplies Crane with cutting edge electronics, including cameras, which the two soon put to use when they interact with Crane’s droves of female fans. But as his sexual compulsions escalate and threaten to collapse his life around him, can Crane reel in his proclivities?
Entertainment Value: Based on the real life events around Bob Crane’s secret life and eventual murder, Auto Focus is a dark ride that rarely relents and presents a side of fame we aren’t often exposed to. Although the movie centers on sex and features various naked bodies, Auto Focus is more about compulsion than erotica or free love. Crane loves sex, but he is driven to seek it out at the cost of all else in his life, regardless of the toll it takes on him and those around him. The narrative runs at a brisk clip, so Crane’s turn toward temptation happens fast, but I think the descent is given time to develop and feels mostly natural. The evolution of the friendship between Crane and Carpenter is at the heart of the movie and that relationship is well fleshed out, even if some elements seem a little glossed over. The fight over an errant hand during an orgy seems to point to deeper issues between the two, but the movie doesn’t delve into that. Greg Kinnear turns in one of his best performances as Crane, at his best when he plays off Willem Dafoe, who is also on point with his work here. The two have an odd chemistry that nails the even more odd relationship between Crane and Carpenter, while Mario Bello and Rita Wilson provide solid backup roles. If you appreciate darker dramas, Auto Focus is well recommended.
This one has frequent nakedness, with more than several topless women of various types showcased. The bare breasts show up often, while naked asses of both male and female persuasions are also seen at times, as well as some brief female full frontal that yields some bush. A couple of scenes have obvious blurring involved, but this was how the film has always been screened, even in theaters, at least in the United States. Just one scene of bloodshed in this one, with a nice, splashy head wound that spatters all over a bed and nearby wall. The scene isn’t overly graphic, but packs a nice punch and conveys the sudden outburst of violence involved. The dialogue here is mostly standard stuff, but any scene with Crane and Carpenter tends to yield either sleaze or dysfunction, both of which we love here. I also liked how oblivious Crane was to the world around him, as it made for some humorous exchanges when outsiders confronted him about his various odd choices. Dafoe steals the show at times however, as Carpenter is such a quirky dude and he has some wild dialogue. As for craziness, the movie takes some dark turns, but overall, doesn’t go too far off the rails. Carpenter’s wackiness and Crane’s compulsions earn a few points, however.
Overall Insanity: 2/10
The Disc: Twilight Time offers the movie in a rock solid HD treatment, one that starts with a clean print and delivers impressive detail. The film has a kind of gritty texture and that remains intact here, while colors have a natural presence and overall, the movie looks quite good here. The extras includes not one, not two, but three audio commentaries, featuring director Paul Schrader, Dafoe and Kinnear, and two producers joined by the screenwriter. This ensures several perspectives are offered and a wealth of insights about the shoot are revealed. The disc also has a look at Crane’s murder, deleted scenes, and a couple of theatrical trailers.