The Woman Chaser
review by Dan Lybarger, 4 August 2000

Distributors have balked at handling freshman screenwriter-director Robinson Devorís new film The Woman Chaser because itís a quirky black-and-white period movie that features no A-list stars. It follows no clear genre and is laced with an offbeat gallows humor. With all of its defiant eccentricity, The Woman Chaser is a hard sell. Itís a wildly entertaining ride for anyone lucky to live near a theater playing it.

Working from Charles Willefordís 1960 genre-busting pulp novel, Devor creates a cynical but consistently entertaining tale of treachery, exploitation, lust and, possibly the most feared crime of all, filmmaking. The last of these infractions has become an obsession for Richard Hudson (Patrick Warburton from Seinfeld), a shrewdly opportunistic used car salesman. With a few carefully selected phrases, Hudson can convince just about anyone to part with their money or can lure even the most reserved of women into a one-night stand. The film even opens with him successfully luring a middle-aged Salvation Army soldier. He has a radar for weaknesses that can lead others into doing his bidding. His power over the will and common sense of others makes him prosperous. Hudsonís boss has just selected him to run an L.A. dealership, and money is rolling in. Nonetheless, having sensed that there are no more worlds to conquer when it comes to swindling car buyers and bedroom partners, Hudson is miserable.

At the height of his despair, Hudson decides that by creating a great work of art he can redeem himself. Lacking the ability to sculpt or dance like his ballerina mother (the two have a hilarious duet in the middle of the film), Hudson decides to take up filmmaking. He recruits some help from his stepfather Leo (newcomer Paul Malevitz), an out of work director. With only a fanís knowledge of the craft, Hudson feverishly concocts The Man Who Got Away, a gloomy yarn about work-weary truck driver turns into a killing machine. While his deal making skills get him in the door, his uncompromising attitude endangers the film. Worse, his amoral attitude, which served him well in his old job, actually starts to hurt him now.

The Woman Chaser has a Get Shorty-like bemusement at the silliness of the entertainment industry. Itís also bolstered by a remarkably effective film noir-ish atmosphere. In addition to being presented in black-and-white, the movie features an eclectic selection of 50ís-era music thatís both eclectic and refreshing. None of these fascinating tunes (played by everybody from Dave Brubeck to Tito Puente) ever plays on oldies radio stations, and they fit the eerie visuals perfectly. The supporting cast also look right at home in the Eisenhower Era surroundings. The actors, some of whom are non-professionals, look nothing like the ones who usually populate Hollywood flicks. Most have a 50s-style paunch that most contemporary filmmakers seem to ignore.

In some cases (Malevitz, in particular), their lack of on-camera experience shows. Devor compensates by cutting quickly and focusing on Warburton. The actor carries all the scenes heís in and projects a benign aura that makes his repellent behavior easier to stomach and often hilarious. He imbues Hudson with a fanatical enthusiasm thatís weirdly contagious. Frequently, we almost want Hudson to succeed with his dubious quest because heís so fun to watch.

Devor, for all of the style he demonstrates, wisely leaves most of the film on Warburtonís broad shoulders. He also knows the value of good material. His adaptation of Willefordís book is often word-for-word. More importantly, he captures Willefordís irreverent attitude. Both the film and the book mock Hudson the way he mocks his customers and sexual conquests, although with considerably more flair and subtlety. As a result, Warbuton is at his funniest when Hudson starts to believe his own hype. There are a lot of cynical films out there, but The Woman Chaser still manages to be entertaining. Itís smartly handled, and it ultimately gives its audience the upper hand over its bullying protagonist.

Click here to read Dan Lybarger's interview.

Directed by:
Robison Devor

Patrick Warburton
Emily Newman
Eugene Roche
Lynette Bennett
Joe Durrenberger
Ron Morgan

Written by:
Charles Willeford




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