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Tommy Hudler (David Arquette) is training to be a salesman for a burglar alarm company. His boss, Heinrich Grigorpis (Stanley Tucci) encourages him and gives him confidence together with the assistance of Sally Brown (Mary McCormack). When Tommy sells his first burglar system to attractive single mother, Gale (Kate Capshaw), he and Gale are immediately attracted and begin a relationship, under the watchful eye of her son Howard (Ryan Reynolds). But Tommy becomes suspicious of Heinrich’s business ethics, when burglaries occur in houses where he has made sales pitches. Then things go horribly wrong when Tommy and Gale go away for the weekend to visit Tommy’s family…

"Evan Dunsky’s directorial debut, The Alarmist is a little black, a little quirky and more than a little appetising. Dunsky’s original and compelling script describes characters that are real and multi-dimensional. And the performances are tops. David Arquette is wonderful as the fresh faced, naïve salesman, who is easy to manipulate. His disarming smile and gauche manner give way to a more worldly understanding of the workings of human nature. At times he reminds me (in manner rather than appearance) of a young Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate – green and eager to please. Stanley Tucci brings complexity as the rogue con-artist security boss – a total contrast to Arquette. Tucci is a great talent and his attention to detail impressive. Kate Capshaw (aka Mrs Spielberg) is stunning as Gale. She is a real scene stealer as she exudes sensuality in her role as the frustrated single parent. It's very funny at the most unexpected of times, appealingly black at others; the contempo, jazzy score creating mood and building tension. Though the ending fizzles somewhat, The Alarmist is a delightful interlude, cleverly combining drama with film noir."
Louise Keller

"Los Angeles in the '90s - a place where the fear of crime is more rampant than the crime itself - is the backdrop for Evan Dunsky's darkly funny parable of mistrust, The Alarmist. Based on Keith Reddin's play Life During Wartime, the film has an interesting premise and some wonderfully entertaining moments. This study of paranoia in many forms, and its effect on people, is a bit like a cross between a Noam Chomsky commentary, an Arthur Miller play and a Tarantino movie. While some scenes are laugh-out-loud funny, the humour is also very black, which will not appeal to all tastes. The Alarmist moves along at a bright pace; but the second half of the film is weaker than the first, and the ending is amusing without being entirely convincing. David Arquette handles the role of Tommy with assurance, but he is outshone by the marvellous Stanley Tucci as Heinrich. His brilliant comic touch is just right for this role. Kate Capshaw is solid as Gale; as is Mary McCormack as Heinrich's assistant Sally. Dunsky directs with a restrained style and largely without resorting to flashy effects. Although not without its flaws, The Alarmist is an intriguing and often hilarious look at urban life in the late 1990's."
David Edwards

"An awful, pointless attempt at black comedy. I don't think I laughed once – and certainly not at David Arquette, who's been funny before in small parts, but seems limited and irritating over the length of a whole film. Arquette's character here is like his dopey deputy from the Scream films overlaid with manic gestures borrowed from Rupert Pupkin, the arm-flailing nerd played by Robert de Niro in The King Of Comedy. Actually, this film is unfunny in such a creepy way it could almost have been directed by Rupert Pupkin. Almost every scene feels familiar yet subtly, unsettlingly wrong. In intention, at least, the filmmakers hold tight to the current US 'indie' formula: a parade of geeks and freaks a la the Coen brothers (a rabid gun nut, a family of slack-jawed yokels) plus a bit of David Lynch's all-American italicised surrealism and some half-heartedly nasty gross-out effects. (Typical punchline: a woman talks about her husband fondling her from under the table, then winds up with 'I got athlete's foot on my vagina!') Why do our local distributors keep buying these obscure, terrible American movies, while ignoring almost everything made by the rest of the world? Pondering this question may help pass the time if you're somehow tricked into watching The Alarmist."
Jake Wilson

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Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0




Aka: Life During Wartime

CAST: Stanley Tucci, David Arquette, Kate Capshaw, Mary McCormack, Ryan Reynolds

DIRECTOR: Evan Dunsky

PRODUCER: Dan Stone, Lisa Zimble

SCRIPT: Evan Dunsky

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alex Nepommiaschy

EDITOR: Norman Buckley

MUSIC: Christophe Beck


RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 25, 1999 (Syd, Apr 15; Perth, Apr 22)

VIDEO RELEASE: Sept 15, 1999


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