The Minus Man

Directed by Hampton Fancher
Starring: Owen Wilson, Brian Cox, Mercedes Ruehl, Janeane Garofalo.
MPAA Rating: R for language and a scene of drug use.

Review by Matt Heffernan
September 27, 1999

Before I saw The Minus Man, I had seen the trailer for it a couple times. It shows a young couple leaving a theatre where the film was playing, and they start discussing it, without giving away any details of the plot. When the sun rises, the young woman realizes they have been talking all night, and she runs off. So now I have a dilemma. Normally, when I write a review, I include a couple paragraphs to describe the premise. I try not to reveal anything that wasn't in the trailer. I just fill in some details to establish a perspective. So, for this film, I had to go its website to determine what should be given away.

Okay, here goes. Doug and Jane (Brian Cox and Mercedes Ruehl), rent out their daughter's room while she's at college. A subdued, likable guy named Vann Siegert (Owen Wilson) comes to town, and stays there. Doug gets him a job at the post office, and Vann finally settles down after a long time on the road.

Everybody in town likes Vann, including Ferrin (Janeane Garofalo), a co-worker that he starts dating. Vann has a secret that he cannot let out in the town, because it would be devastating. And that's just about all I could say.

This could have been a great Hitchcockian thriller, but it suffered from two major flaws: slow pacing and Owen Wilson. A suspense film can be many things, but it should never be boring. Wilson, who was a debit for The Haunting, adds the same lack of charisma here. I'm not sure what it is, but he just rubs me the wrong way.

The film's saving grace is its supporting cast, most notably Cox. He gives a great performance as an odd, tortured man. Ruehl and Garofalo always help whatever they are in, and their presence is appreciated. Ferrin is really a very different role for Garofalo, and she shows great range playing it.

I must admit, I went against the suggestion of the ads and saw this by myself. Unlike the promise of the ad, I didn't start talking to myself about it. If you want a film to talk about, see American Beauty. I've seen a half dozen films since that one, and it continues to echo in my mind.


For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
The Minus Man (1999)

Here's some merchandise for sale at Amazon.com
The Minus Man (1999) -- VHS
The Minus Man (1999) -- DVD
The Minus Man, a novel by Lew McCreary -- Paperback


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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan