Greg Kinnear stars as "Hogan's Heroes" actor Bob Crane in the film Auto Focus, where Crane's lesser known life as an amateur porn star is detailed. Kinnear plays the role with sincerity, and director Paul Schrader does an excellent job behind the camera.
Though Crane found success in "Hogan's Heroes" and a few other bits of primetime entertainment, Auto Focus examines how he became involved in the much more controversial area of home sex videos. The movie winds through the relationship with his first wife, how he came to meet his second (on the set of "Heroes") and how he came to have affairs with plenty of women - and captured it all on the recently-invented videotape. Furthermore, everything revolves around his relationship with John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe), who, the movie claims, was the one that led Crane around during the seventies and possibly was the one that murdered him.
Auto Focus isn't nearly as offbeat as I was expecting; it is a pretty standard film, but done beautifully by Schrader, who is an expert at doing dark character films, such as Affliction. More importantly, Kinnear is terrific in the lead, portraying Crane as an always upbeat kind of man who wasn't all that much different from his most famous role. Kinnear always has a smirk on his face, yet he delivers his lines with believability. If not for the subject of the film and its lack of a major theatrical release, an Oscar nomination wouldn't have been out of the question. In a supporting role, Dafoe is equally impressive, though I would expect nothing less.
Auto Focus raises some interesting questions about the life of Crane and does an intriguing job of providing one perspective on how one rather respected man could get so out of control in regards to his life.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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