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Ego-filled 'Minus Man' lacks creativity


Arizona Daily Wildcat

Photo courtesy of The Shooting Gallery. Janeane Garofalo and Owen Wilson star in The Minus Man, a story about a murderous drifter. The Minus Man was directed by Hampton Fancher.

By Casey Dexter
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
October 15, 1999

Bring together four of the funniest comedic talents in Hollywood for a quirky independent movie and what do you get? Surprisingly, a movie that takes itself way too seriously.

"The Minus Man" is about a drifter named Vann who apparently watched "Arsenic and Old Lace" too many times. Vann (played by Owen Wilson) travels from small town to small town finding lonely souls like himself and killing them out of the mercy of his heart. He keeps a flask of Amaretto liqueur in his glove box and using the almond flavor to hide the arsenic, kills those people he finds depressing. Ingenious right? Except for the fact that a million other movies have done the same exact thing.

The audience first sees Wilson kill his real-life girlfriend, Sheryl Crow. Crow, in her acting debut, drinks, shoots up and falls asleep. As simple as it sounds, her performance is not pretty. The first 10 minutes consist of the two of them talking but they make it feel like half an hour.

And for some reason, the noses of these two people look unbelievably disfigured when they are next to each other. It's not a factor in the movie, but it is definitely distracting.

Vann kills her and moves along down the road.

Owen drifts into Owensville (the actual name of the town) where he meets Jane, Doug and Ferrin (Mercedes Ruehl, Brian Cox and Janeane Garofalo), three people who are all candidates for Vann's next killing. The rest of the movie consists of Vann talking philosophically, murdering random people and talking philosophically again.

The movie is obviously not based in reality, but they could have made the characters speak like normal people instead of making them sound like PHIL 101 lecturers.

The film gets even worse when Vann gets some "crazy" guilt dreams. Here, policemen Dwight Yoakam and Dennis Haysbert act as Vann's conscience and interrogate the killer. It's unreal how much slower the movie gets in these segments. Without them, "The Minus Man" would seem as if it were four hours long, with them, 10.

Director Hampton Fancher makes his directorial debut with this, his own script. Fancher previously wrote "Blade Runner" and must have been able to live off of that for a while because this is the first big thing he's done since. Unfortunately for him, Ridley Scott isn't here to direct this time and make his script interesting.

Fancher attempted to make "The Minus Man" deep and meaningful but failed miserably. Someone should have let him know that long pauses do not constitute meaning and long personal statements ("The thing about a journey, no matter how long or short it is, you're never sure what's going to happen next. The traveler can always expect to be tested.") do not make characters seem real or interesting.

And in hiring some of the most talented players in Hollywood and wasting them on horrible dialogue (or wasting them period, as in the case of the practically non-existent Larry Miller), Fancher seriously deserves to take another 15-year break.

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