The Alarmist

  • 1998
  • Movie
  • R
  • Comedy, Crime, Drama

A cynical farce about suspicion and greed, Evan Dunsky's feature debut suggests an odd mix of GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS and BLUE VELVET. Naïve but ambitious Tommy Hudler (David Arquette) finds his calling in door-to-door sales, peddling home-security systems under the tutelage of self-made man Heinrich Grigoris (Stanley Tucci), the kind of hale fellow well met...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A cynical farce about suspicion and greed, Evan Dunsky's feature debut suggests an odd mix of GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS and BLUE VELVET. Naïve but ambitious Tommy Hudler (David Arquette) finds his calling in door-to-door sales, peddling home-security systems under

the tutelage of self-made man Heinrich Grigoris (Stanley Tucci), the kind of hale fellow well met you always vaguely suspect has body parts wrapped in black plastic in his freezer. Tommy's first sale is to sexy older woman Gale (Kate Capshaw), who buys an alarm system from him and then steals his

heart; their relationship progresses with surprising smoothness, especially when you consider that her smart-alecky son Howard (Ryan Reynolds) is only slightly younger than Tommy. The thorn in Tommy's rose garden is Heinrich himself: The older man begins sharing some of the dicier tricks of the

trade with his protégé, and eagle scout Tommy just isn't comfortable with practices like staging fake break-ins to goose business. He also begins to suspect Heinrich may be something far more dangerous than an amoral sharpie who preys on people's exaggerated fears of random violence. Unlike many

so-called black comedies, which are simply weird and tasteless, this adaptation of Keith Reddin's play Life During Wartime contains some genuine queasy laughs, alongside a few gags that fall dismally flat. David Arquette is particularly well-used: The weird disjunction between Arquette's

Norman Rockwell-ish looks and his twitchy mannerisms gives kindly go-getter Tommy an uneasy edge that smooths a descent into paranoia and Machiavellian cruelty that might otherwise seem forced and unconvincing. He and Stanley Tucci have a brittle chemistry, old married couple banter crossed with

testosterone-fueled competitiveness, which makes all their scenes together crackle uneasily with petty duplicity and potential betrayal.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: R
  • Review: A cynical farce about suspicion and greed, Evan Dunsky's feature debut suggests an odd mix of GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS and BLUE VELVET. Naïve but ambitious Tommy Hudler (David Arquette) finds his calling in door-to-door sales, peddling home-security systems und… (more)

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