2005 - PG-13 - 83 Mins.
|Director: Les Mayfield
|Producer: Rob Fried
|Written By: Jim Piddock, Margaret Oberman and Steve Carpenter
|Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Eugene Levy, Luke Goss, Miguel Ferrer and Susie Essman
|Review by: Bill King
|Official Site: www.themanmovie.com/
'The Man' isn't so much a movie as it is a feature-length experiment to see how two actors with wildly conflicting styles can occupy the same scene and come through unscathed. This particular experiment is a complete failure, as other necessary ingredients, namely a story worth caring about, are missing. Samuel L. Jackson plays another of his no-nonsense tough guys, while Eugene Levy channels his "Jim's Dad" character from 'American Pie.'
What are you doing here Rosie O'Donnell?
Jackson is Derrick Vann, an ATF agent in Detroit searching for the guys who killed his partner. Levy is Andy Fiddler, a salesman of dental products attending a convention who gets caught up in an operation involving gun smuggling. Vann forces Fiddler to go along with his investigation, despite Fiddler's protests. The two bicker for nearly the entire movie, all the while trying to nail the bad guys by tricking them into selling them the guns.
Derrick Vann's abusive style is so unprofessional that it's a wonder how he managed to stay employed. Granted, other cop movies feature hard-nosed detectives (witness Nick Nolte's raging cop in '48 Hrs.'), but Vann never once comes across like he knows what he's doing. He rants incessantly, even going so far as to taunt some fellow Detroit police officers because they're unaware of his identity. This guy is a compilation of every hotheaded Jackson character from his petty thief in 'Coming to America' to gangster Jules Winnfield in 'Pulp Fiction.'
Eugene Levy plays his role a little more realistically. He's basically an average guy who has never been confronted with a violent situation in his life. Suddenly he finds himself in the middle of an illegal operation, being pulled along by an ATF agent with little more on his mind than who to yell at next.
Fiddler tries to reason with Vann and with the lieutenant at headquarters. He's flustered at his failure to communicate, but takes a little charge once he realizes there's no backing out of this operation. Still, there's no grain of originality to the character. It's "Jim's Dad" all over again. Director Les Mayfield plucked Levy out of 'American Pie' and stuck him here.
The only twist in the movie is the role of the angry boss back at the station. This time it's a woman yelling at our hero, although her words are basically the same thing you'd hear in other movies like this. Just so the film doesn't stray too far into originality, the villain is granted a British accent. We have to keep up appearances, after all, and throw in something from 'Die Hard.'
What we have is another standard buddy movie featuring an uninspired smuggling scheme and over-the-top action scenes. 'The Man' adds nothing new to the genre, and gives us no reason to watch it. The bad guys are boring, the comedy is lacking, and the story is disposable. Most of the scenes are shot at ground level, giving away little to indicate this isn't Detroit. I guess if I was producing this movie and had this script to work with, I'd probably film in Canada too, and lessen the pain of the inevitable box office disappointment.