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With: David Arquette, Stanley Tucci, Kate Capshaw, Mary McCormack, Ryan Reynolds, Tricia Vessey, Clea DuVall, Ruth Miller, Hoke Howell, Michael Learned, Lewis Arquette, Richmond Arquette, Gabriel Dell Jr., Valerie Long, Kim Tobin, Colin Campbell, Eric Zivot, Vincent J. Bilancio, David Brisbin, Bradley J. Gorman, Dennis Cockrum, Matt Malloy, Alex Nepomniaschy
Written by: Evan Dunsky, based on a play by Keith Reddin
Directed by: Evan Dunsky
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality and language
Running Time: 92
Date: 09/07/1997

The Alarmist (1998)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Safety Thirst

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on the play Life During Wartime by Keith Reddin, The Alarmist (a much better title) is the "quirky" new film by first-time writer & director Evan Dunsky. David Arquette (the ultimate "quirky" actor today) plays Tommy Hudler, who gets a job at a company that sells home security systems. Stanley Tucci plays his boss, Heinrich. On his first day out, Tommy makes a sale to Gale (Kate Capshaw), a sexy older woman and single mother. Tommy and Gale are attracted to each other and immediately strike up an affair. Before long, crazy things start to happen, and Tommy begins to question the integrity of the safety business.

Part of the fun of The Alarmist is watching the twisted plot unwind itself, but the movie also has an odd laid-back quality. Director Dunsky seems to let the actors and the story happen while he just watches. The movie's ending, for example, occurs as a kind of anti-climax -- told and not shown. Even so, the quality of the acting in the movie is right on the money. David Arquette personifies a landmine of ticks and twitches. He always looks like he has to go to the bathroom, but is afraid to excuse himself. Ms. Capshaw is beautifully restrained but very sensual -- a welcome change from her clich├ęd 1980s roles. And Mr. Tucci's Heinrich is a scuzzy lowlife, but the actor, by skilled use of his elastic face and mouth, draws you in and earns your trust.

These electric performances, the plot, and the cheerful guitar score by Christophe Beck, help make The Alarmist a fun and... well... "quirky" experience.

(This review originally appeared on

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