Everyone, whether they want to or not, knows about The Room. Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 magnum dope-us earned its legendary cult status by combining its hacky dialogue and atrocious acting to create to pinnacle of amazingly terrible cinema. It was bad, perfected. And while Square Enix’s new game, The Quiet Man, hardly has any dialogue to speak of, I could not help but be reminded of the work from “New Orleans’” finest denim-selling director. The Quiet Man is hilariously tacky and stupid, but, based on the demo I played, I wasn’t sure if it knew what it was doing nor if it will work in the final product.
The Quiet Man Preview: Dawn of the Deaf
Part of this confusion is because of how deadly serious The Quiet Man takes itself. You play as Dane, a deaf man who’s as good at kicking ass as he is at looking at the camera with an emotionless grimace. In most cases, you actually see him looking into the camera because the cutscenes are real videos taken of real people. It’s shot like a noir television show, but with Lifetime Channel-level acting.
Dane’s corny reactions were matched by his voiced companions that were mostly stereotypical thugs decked on in weed gear because bad dudes love smoking them tasty drugs. And, since Dane is presumably part of D.A.R.E. (his name is only one letter off, after all), he began starting his drug abuse resistance education with an emphasis on the “abuse.”
The Quiet Man Preview: Deaf Jam: Fight for New York
Fights are where the game cleverly transitions from FMV to video game visuals. But the brawls were shallow. The enemies just sat there and took multiple kicks and punches without trying to hit back, letting the gameplay devolve in an unexciting mashfest. A special focus mode tried to bring some variety and depth, but it only made the foes even slower and more susceptible to get pounded. Not even well-animated finishers and brutal takedowns made brawls anything more than mindless scrums between the bizarre cutscenes.
And most of those cutscenes are almost completely silent. In order to bring the player closer into Dane’s world, the sound mutes and leaves players to judge where the story is going through the mood of the room over spoken dialogue. It’s an interesting gimmick and it breaks down acting to its most basic components: body language and facial reactions.
Well-acted drama can overcome language barriers even if there’s no language being spoken. I’ve always wanted to watch a foreign film with no subtitles to dig in to the performances but always feared I would lose the plot amidst the words I didn’t understand. It’s an interesting idea that I want to see more of but there’s a difference between watching Oldboy in its native Korean tongue without subtitles and sitting through The Quiet Man’s bizarre cutscenes in complete silence.
The Quiet Man Preview: Oh Hi, Marks
Since the lack of sound puts more emphasis on the acting, the acting has to be good. And, whether on purpose or not, the cartoonish villains and Dane’s hilariously non-menacing mean mugs don’t elicit the dramatic response that I think the game is going for. Odd interludes of his childhood trauma were spliced in during fights and scenes and may make more sense in context, but were jarring and one of the most Wiseau-like aspects of the demo.
Melodramatic peeks into Dane’s problem with childhood bullies and his relationship with a mysterious woman were seemingly plopped in at random. Its dramatic effect was stymied by its poor timing and made it downright hilarious. But, again, I don’t think that’s what it was going for. It felt sincere in a way that I’m not sure the game is capable of achieving.
While The Room is wonderfully bad, Wiseau’s most recent film, Best Friends, is just bad with no qualifier. It tried to shove an actual, poorly written plot into something that wasn’t meant to be anything but a schlocky good time. After what I played, I’m scared that The Quiet Man will be the more of the latter Wiseau instead of the former. It’s possible it’ll come into its own in the full release, but what I played didn’t convince me that the game will correctly channel its obvious cheesiness. The Quiet Man will most likely be reminiscent of Tommy Wiseau’s work either way but it’s just not clear exactly which one of his films it will resemble in the end.