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MINUS MAN, THE
Reviewed May 12th, 2002 by David Nusair

 

The Minus Man, a movie about a serial killer, is very similar to Sling Blade Ė though mostly on a stylistic level. Both films take their time telling their story and allow the movie to transpire in an almost dream-like manner. They both have a minimal plot and spend much of the running time exploring the various characters that exist within the story. And both, by the time they're over, are fantastically entertaining and even a little moving.

Owen Wilson stars as a drifter who finds himself in what can best be described as a sleepy little town where not much happens. While there, he stays with an older couple (played by Mercedes Reuhl and Brian Cox) and lands a job at the post office, where he meets and begins a relationship with a fellow employee (Janeane Garofalo). Not much happens besides (oh, yeah) Wilson's tendency to randomly murder people on occasion.

The Minus Man is the type of movie you really need to be in the mood for before you sit down and watch it. It's pace is slow and the storyline basically non-existent - but that's okay, because sometimes that works. And it especially works here mostly due to the performances. Wilson is a good comedic actor, but he never gave off vibes indicating he'd be a good dramatic actor as well. As the casual psycho, he's always likeable (even when he's in the midst of murdering someone). He treats his victims as though he's doing them a favour - though why he feels compelled to kill them is never really explained. Wilson provides occasional voice over in which he talks about his past and this sort of explains his motives, but not really. It's all kept very obtuse.

Garofalo, as Wilson's love interest, finally plays a character that isn't just an extension of her real-life persona, constantly spitting out hostile and sarcastic one-liners. As a sort of alcoholic small-town shy girl, she completely re-invents her onscreen image. This is a legitimate performance from Garofalo, and not just another case of Garofalo playing Garofalo. The other actors are good, particularly Brian Cox as a lonely, self-abusing character.

The interesting thing about The Minus Man, though, is that it takes one of the oldest genres in film (the serial killer) and completely turns it upside down. Most movies of this ilk (such as Se7en and Copycat) are played as thrillers and they excel in that fashion. But this movie, with all the tension beneath the surface, plays out like a novel. The characters aren't easily explained and neither are their motives. And by the time the end rolls around, there's really no definitive conclusion. Like The Usual Suspects or Memento, this is a movie that will likely leave you thinking about it (and talking about it) for days afterwards.

The Minus Man doesn't exactly make Speed look like a slow ride to grandma's house, but (if you're in the right mindset) it's a very entertaining and thought-provoking flick.

Audio: Though itís accompanied by a DD 5.1 soundtrack, itís not entirely necessary. This is an awfully quiet film, with little need for surround sound and as such, the DVD reflects that. But the dialogue is always easy to make out and ambient noises never interfere.

Video: This 1.85:1 anamorphically enhanced transfer is pretty impressive, especially given the tiny budget the film must have had. Itís pretty much flawless, with no apparent film grain or artifacting.

Extras: The most interesting extra here is a section that includes 12 mini biographies of prominent serial killers (everyone from the Manson family to John Wayne Gacy to Jeffrey Dahmer is here). Itís a little grisly, but undoubtedly fascinating. Also included are the original trailer (which doesnít contain a single scene from the film, but gets you hooked right away), the more standard video trailer, some cast/crew bios, and production notes.

Conclusion: The Minus Man is an intriguing character study, one thatíll have you thinking about it for days afterward.

 

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