Auto Focus (2002)

auto focus poster 2002 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

A strange story of a secret life

Some story telling decisions are mistakes

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Auto Focus

Studio:  Propaganda Films

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  October 18, 2002

MPAA Rating:  R


Just an everyday type of guy

Bob Crane (Greg Kinnear) has dreams of fame.  Going from his DJ job in L.A. to a hot TV show about a Nazi POW camp, Crane finds big success.  When Crane meets John Carpenter (Willem Dafoe) through his costar Richard Dawson (Michael E. Rodgers), Crane and Carpenter discover they both have a taste for sex that ranges to the extreme.  Crane falls deeper and deeper into his desires which destroy his family and relationships…and ends up sealing his fate.

Directed by Paul Schrader, Auto Focus is a biopic drama based on the 1993 non-fiction crime book The Murder of Bob Crane by Robert Graysmith.  The film received positive reviews but criticism from some of Bob Crane’s family.  Both Willem Dafoe and Greg Kinear received praise for their performances.


We’re just a couple of normal guys…having sex with girls

I was not a Hogan’s Hero fan.  It was one of those shows I didn’t get as a kid.  Nazis + prisoners = funny?  As an early ’80s kids, the only Nazis I was familiar with were the ones who menaced Indiana Jones and they were no joke.  As a result, I don’t have a lot of Bob Crane context to judge him.  The movie was an interesting watch but did have some detractors.

The whole story of Bob Crane is an odd, different, and compelling one, but I didn’t feel the movie necessarily did it justice.  The tone of the movie seemed a bit all over the place with a dead narrator and weird hallucination scenes on the set of Hogan’s Heroes, and though Crane was known as a joker, he also had this dark side.  The movie tried to balance the two, but it made for a less compelling story.  I felt a lot of Crane’s personal and family life was rushed and unbalanced and needed boosting to offset his odd relationship with Carpenter which is played almost like another marriage.


Gee…I might have re-evaluate my decision not to watch Hogan’s Heroes…i don’t remember this scene

Kinnear has never been my favorite actor, and I have always found him rather generic.  From interviews of Bob Crane and the episodes of Hogan’s Heroes I have seen, Kinnear does do a good job capturing the actor.  Many of Kinnear’s acting problems I do have in this film come from the above mentioned tone of the film.  The person I have no complaint with is Willem Defoe who always can make a picture at least marginally interesting even if it is a clunker.  Here, he is in top form by playing a creeper and like normal playing it well.  Dafoe and Kinnear are backed by an underused supporting cast which includes Rita Wilson as Crane’s first wife and Maria Bello as his second wife…and I do love the Hogan’s Heroes stand-ins.


The bitter end for Bob Crane

The movie is set from 1965 to 1978.  I had a hard time keeping track of what time period it was in the film due to advanced electronic equipment from Carpenter, clothing styles, and simply not being from that period.  A little more direction on how long of a period of time the story covers, how long Carpenter and Crane have known each other, and some more bullet points about important moments in Crane’s life would be helpful.

I do recommend Auto Focus if nothing else to learn about a really odd guy.  I also recommend watching the documentary which is generally found with the DVD on the murder case (called Murder in Scottsdale) which helps fill out some of the questions I had when the film ended.  Auto Focus isn’t a great film but it is a good film and worth seeking out.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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