This is a documentary portrait of actor Warren Oates. Oates is a bit of an unsung hero, never a real star but lauded as one of the best character actors ever. He has some cultstatus for the films he did with Sam Peckinpah (notably "The Wild Bunch" and "Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia") and another maverick director Monte Hellman (The Shooting, Two-lane Backtop). But is probably best remembered for John Milius' "Dilinger" or maybe as the drill-sergeant in Ivan Reitman's "Stripes". Problem with this documentary is it's anecdotal style. You never really get an idea of what kind of person Oates really was. In the beginning of the film he is characterized as someone who kept himself to himself and that picture doesn't change. His relationships to people (especially Peckinpah) is hinted at but never in-depth. At the end of the film suddenly two children pop up who were never mentioned before and it is never clear where when and how he met his (second?) last wife who is featured but never tells us much. As for the fellow artists who appear, Robert Culp only rants against Peckinpah, Hellman only talks about his own films and some professor only talks about the mythological Oates (whom he obviously never met). If the aim was to center on Oates' acting, it falters there too because it doesn't show the versatility he is lauded for. It is lovingly made but you get the feeling the director either didn't get to talk to everyone he wanted, or had to bring in a short film and had to cut everything that went to deep. Or it could just be that there wasn't much to tell about an actor who never made a fuss of himself and is he up there with Peckinpah drinking in that big Cantina in the sky and wondering what the hell the fuss is all about.
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