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A cold-blooded serial killer floats around the country and chooses his victims from people who complain about their lives and indicate a willingness to be killed. His murders are introduced with the killing of an asthmatic junkie. The killer settles into a seaside rooming house run by an unhappy married couple and waits for his next victims to unveil themselves. Dream cops plague his nights, while plotting his murders. Meanwhile, he also starts a relationship with a postal clerk. Written by
John Sacksteder <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"I've never done anything violent to anybody, just the minimum that was necessary. No fear, no pain, they just go to sleep. But after it's done there's no going back, no second chance, if I made a mistake I'll pay for it."
The Minus Man is a very special film. It doesn't rely on sleuthing and big chases to find the truth. It doesn't have big car chases and women being chased through hallways or down dark streets. What it DOES do is show how subtlety can be more deeply disturbing and effective in telling a story about a serial killer that enters a small town and changes the lives of those who are drawn to him.
"You don't always choose WHAT you do, sometimes what you do chooses YOU. That's where discipline comes in." Vann (Owen Wilson) speaks lines such as that one throughout the story, and in many ways they help you understand him (yet not completely) and what may hinder his actions. He's likeable, quiet, and seems to be what people want or perceive him to be: their friend, tenant, and co-worker. Vann just happens to start breaking his personal rules and poisoning people nearby, and things start getting complicated. But we like Vann, we have affections for him, we know what he's doing is wrong but we want him to be alright.
His landlords Doug (Brian Cox, cinema's original Hannibal Lecter) and Jane (Mercedes Ruehl), have their own skeletons in the closet and it seems that everyone ELSE'S problems are what could mess up Vann's quiet killing spree.
Owen Wilson handles his role with such ease, eating his Clark bars and having discussions with imaginary detectives played by Dwight Yoakam and Dennis Haysbert. These scenes show an extension of Vann's psyche, and actually keeps him in check, maintaining his sanity really. Janeane Garofalo is surprisingly affecting and quite serious as the co-worker with a crush on Vann. A major surprise is the wonderful performance of Laurie played by singer Sheryl Crow.
It's nice to see such a beautifully crafted psychological "thriller" where we as the audience are part of the atmosphere around Vann, seeing more than anyone else yet not completely let in on his reasoning. I didn't find this method elusive, rather it was giving us the chance to witness a portion of time in a town, what happened there, and then Vann moves on, leaving us to wonder what his next chapter will be. The great thing is that you will never be bored by this--all the conversations, the thoughts in his head, the killings, we get to absorb them into our minds and figure it all out for ourselves.
The Minus Man is a subtle and brilliant film from Hampton Fancher. A very human story that doesn't need buckets of blood and people chasing everyone around. It leaves many things throughout to help you gather your own clues and interpretations and is guaranteed to have you discussing it long after it's over. I am very happy to have this DVD in my collection, and most stores don't stock a title like this because it's not "top hits" fare...do yourself a favor and seek this one out, it makes a nice companion piece to Egoyan's film "Felicia's Journey."
If one thing left an impression on me to this day, it's the headline on a newspaper Vann was reading in a diner: "Boy Trapped Inside Travelling Exhibit"...a rather nice metaphore on Vann's situation I think....no? Well, we could talk about it for HOURS..........
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