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"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
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..........
An unassuming, charismatic personality and a bottle of poison prove to be a lethal combination in `The Minus Man,' directed by Hampton Fancher and starring Owen Wilson. When a personable young man drifts in from the Pacific Northwest and settles in a small coastal town, a number of people's lives are soon changed forever, and not for the better. Vann Siegert (Wilson) is a likable fellow with a winning smile and always a credible story regarding who he is, where he's been and where he's going; he's also a psychotic killer who chooses his victims seemingly at random, yet is so ingratiating that he never falls under suspicion. And such is the case when he rents a room from an unsuspecting couple, Jane and Doug Durwin (Mercedes Ruehl and Brian Cox). Without realizing, of course, that he's enabling a murderer, Doug helps Vann find gainful employment, allowing him to establish himself within the community, and the rest-- as they say-- is history. In one of the more telling scenes in the film, Vann reflects to himself, `If it weren't for me, these people would all be doing something else today...' What they are doing, in fact, is searching for one of their own who has gone missing, courtesy of Vann. What is so distressing about this movie is the lack of menace outwardly presented by someone so intrinsically evil; like Norman Bates in `Psycho,' Vann is simply too unprepossessing and benign to be considered a threat to anyone. The contrast between his countenance and his crimes is chilling; and the fact that he perpetrates his deeds in such a matter-of-fact, unemotional manner gives new meaning to the phrase `cold blooded killer.' One of the interesting aspects of the film is that Vann acts as narrator as well, which effectively puts the audience inside the mind behind the madness, even more so than in `Silence of the Lambs,' because in this case, the viewer is privy to the actual thought process that precipitates the crimes. And it becomes a bit unnerving after some reflection upon what is actually transpiring under the guise of `normalcy.' Owen Wilson is well cast and gives a stunningly credible performance as Vann; he conveys such a low-keyed, eye-in-the-center-of-the-storm manner that he is instantly recognizable as the boy next door you'd be more than happy for your daughter to date. And after watching him in action it becomes truly disconcerting to consider that in the real world there are those who look and act like Vann and are capable of such heinous acts of violence and deceit. As the couple who takes Vann in-- and are subsequently taken in by him-- Ruehl and Cox capture the essence of the `everyman/woman' that can be found in any neighborhood in any town, and the fact that they are people with whom it is so easy to identify makes it even more upsetting when you realize that the vulnerability to which we are all prone can be exploited with such facility. In a supporting role, Janeane Garofalo is a welcome presence as Ferrin, a co-worker of Vann's who is drawn in by his winsome facade; and rounding out the supporting cast are Sheryl Crowe (Caspar/Laurie), Dwight Yoakam (Blair), Dennis Haysbert (Graves) and Alex Warren (State Trooper). Ultimately, `The Minus Man' is a cautionary tale that may spark a touch of paranoia in the viewer, and with good reason; and after spending some time with Vann, it just may alter your perception of some of your more casual acquaintances and even some old friends, especially those who seem so `ordinary.' It's a film that kind of sneaks up on you and takes you by surprise; and it may leave you pondering the darker side of human nature. I rate this one 7/10.
"The Minus Man" is the sort of film whose success depends on the performance
of the central actor. After viewing, it seems impossible to imagine any one
else playing the lead. Owen Wilson is a significantly talented actor: he
brings a realistic sense of detail and ambiguity to the character of Vann.
It is clear from the beginning that this young man is supposed to be
likeable. Wilson conveys almost angelic charm, yet he is also capable of a
calculating, knowing quality. The latter is what gives the character
resonance. It makes the film work. The viewer is presented with a serial
killer who is not only aware of what he is doing, but has a certain
subconscious understanding of why.
This film is a study of one suggested reason for a serial killer's actions: he kills for control, to have an effect on the lives of others. By taking away--a "minus" effect--he adds something of his own. The idea itself certainly isn't new, but the character's illustration of it in this film is something unique and fascinating. There is a memorable, chilling scene in which Vann joins a search party for one of his own victims. Later, at a memorial service, he ponders the tremendous influence he has worked upon the inhabitants of the small town, and how, with just a few, words, he could change things yet again. In another scene, Vann decides against murdering an artist who has invited him home: her paintings reveal a pre-occupation with suicide and death, so his actions would have no real effect on her.
Other actors here are very fine: Brian Cox, Mercedes Ruehl, Meg Foster, while Jeanane Garofalo gives a subtle and endearing picture of a lonely young woman.
You may not discuss it for days afterward, but "The Minus Man" is well worth the time.
There's a great trailer for this film that shows a couple on a date talking
about a movie they just saw. It shows them in various locations and at each
place, they're involved in animated discussion about various aspects of the
film. Then suddenly, the sun is rising and the couple discovers they've
been talking all night. When the woman realizes the hour, she takes off in
a mad rush. She is late for work. When she arrives, she finds a couple of
people floating face down in a pool. They are dead. She is a lifeguard.
The tag line for the trailer says something along the lines of "The Minus
Man, it'll have you talking for hours." It's a clever trailer for an even
more clever movie!!
Holy Hampton Fancher! This guy is amazing. He wrote the screenplay from a book by the same title. The script is so incredibly well written that it really DOES leave you talking for hours. Each character is so dimensional you could eat them like a multi-layered subway sandwich.
Owen Wilson does an amazing job playing the likeable Vann. So amazing in fact, that not only does he manage to melt everyone's heart in the town, the audience falls in love with him too. That characteristic is key in creating a believable, and deeply dimensional, disturbing character.
Brian Cox is also amazing as the masochistic, fatherly landlord.
Janeane Garafalo breaks out of her "I'm so unamused" role, to play a fairly carefree, almost naive small town girl.
Some people have commented that this film moves too slowly. In making it, Hampton Fancher said he wanted it to move like a lullaby. Well, that it does. And it is as sweetly sung a lullaby as I've ever heard. I cuddled up into my theatre seat and sat back and enjoyed every minute of it.
I could go on and on for hours and hours about the complexity and implications of this movie, but I won't so you can go and enjoy it yourself! Then email me. We could talk about it for hours.
A Must See. One of This Year's Best!!!
"A person's brain is like a pet- sometimes it gets loose, sometimes it gets
lost, sometimes it sort of behaves itself and stays in the yard."
This film isn't a mystery in the sense of a whodunnit, it's more of an examination of the mystery and strangeness of people, and the minutely strange things we do. Hampton Francher tows a taut line of existential inquest. This film defies categorization and really does get the gears turning by creating a complete world with an unrelentingly quiet unease. This film is what I'd call a mirror film, it's uninflected and amoral, so the ultimate interpretation is left to us.
Vann Siegert (Owen Wilson) is a quiet, friendly, young
Although a bit slow-witted and new to town, he quickly develops a
relationship with the couple he boards with (Brian Cox and
Ruehl), is being pursued by an amorous co-worker (Janeane
and distinguishes himself as go-getter at the Post
Office. There is one little thing that sets him apart from
else - he's a serial killer.
Minus Man is atypical of the films in this genre: there have been few trailers, it boasts no A-list stars, blood and guts are nowhere to be found, there is little melodrama, and it has a tight, well-crafted script. While the film seems to plod along, the pacing is deliberate and just when you're ready to walk it sucks you back in.
Wilson, (looking remarkably like a young Dennis Hopper) is spellbinding: he projects an innocence and vulnerability that not only makes you forget he's a murderer, but leaves you feeling sorry for him. Garofalo meanwhile, is uncharacteristically bubbly, and has no dialogue that dwells on bitterness and self-loathing. Sheryl Crow and Dwight Yokum also turn in admirable appearances.
If you're looking for a change of pace from the Hollywood grind, this is a risk well worth taking.
Hampton Fancher is a brilliant writer and director. In The Minus Man, he has managed to accomplish several tasks that no one else has be able to do. He is the first director who has cast Janeane Garofalo in a role that reveals her immense sex appeal. Ms. Garofalo's character, Ferrin displays a full range of emotions and despite her obvivous personal demons, she is a beam of light in a rather dark and disturbing film. Owen Wilson is magnificant as the quirky, unassuming vagabond killer machine, Van. Much of the movie is told by Van's narration. We are made to sympathize with his obvivious moral confusion. The scene with Van and Ferrin are touching, sweet and spooky. Mr. Fancher's fantastic film is further enhanced by the presence of Mercedes Reuhl and Brian cox as the landlords who rents Van a room. Ms. reuhl is allowed to be troubled and complex and still maintain her smouldering, mature sexuality while Mr. Cox is still engaging despite his David Lynchian psychotic episodes. This director even manages to makes Van's truck and the sun-drenched, westcoast beachscape a character in the film. A must-see!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
*Just a health warning from the start, you might find that if you're
depressive this film does generate a desire for suicide.*
What we have here is something to challenge your most basic social assumptions. Yes even yours, my countercultural amigo. We have a charming serial killer (Vann Siegert played by Owen Wilson), we have a killing spree across anonymous, sunlit rural America. Anyone thinking American Perfekt? Well what we have here is a bit more special than even that great movie.
Here we have a gentle blond-haired murderer whose weapon of choice is a poisoned flask of amaretto (what better way to die?). He's so nice that when he sees an upturned rubbish bin at a lay-by on the highway he rights it and puts the rubbish back in. Because of his sweet character we are left to wonder at the motive for his murders, and it is not contradictory as some have suggested. Vann really believes he's being charitable.
The first good deed of Vann we see is him putting a hardup depressed junkie out of her misery quietly and calmly, without pain. 'Well done' we're led to think for correcting this error, for subtracting this subtraction, for this analgesic act. This complicity leads us into unease as his next victim is the local football star, who, we are told can get into any college he wants to and is all set on joining the FBI afterwards. Zounds! Eftsoon we are lead to wonder what sort of life we are leading. Where even success is failure in the mental calculus of Vann Siegert. Indeed what fool would suspect that football+college+fbi=happiness? Perhaps some of you gin veterans, some of you workaday grunts (and I am one too - sigh) are nodding in agreement? This killer seems less of a Satan and more of an Evening Star. Here we have insight from the slacker culture, Vann tells us that his job running mail is the best he's ever had, something he could imagine doing forever. Why do we spend our waking hours consumed by greed and striving for status? This killer with argent veins, with his reaving net, a new Jesus? His message: to live life with never a sting.
It will take giant nerves from you raving teens to carry on sympathising after he murders a stressed working man after an incredibly brief encounter at a diner. He seems to become more reckless as the movie carries on.
It has been suggested that Vann Siegert 'is merely a reflection of what those who encounter him want him to be'. Indeed when Vann takes a room with Doug and Jane (Brian Cox and Mercedes Ruehl) he quite creepily takes over the role of their absent daughter whom they pine for. And whilst certainly most of us have the so-called Freudian death-wish it would certainly be a stretch to suggest that Vann is acting with any sort of moral authority in fulfilling it for us. Common sense suggests that if you found out someone you knew had murdered the local football hero, to save him having to suffer his perfect life, you would give them a damned good kicking. 'The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions' is the tagline from American Perfekt but would serve well for this movie.
It's quite an unnerving film because of how submissive Owen Wilson's portrayal of this character is. Something we're not used to seeing on screen. Brian Cox's masochistic portrayal of Doug is also unsettling.
Have yourself an arts evening, The Minus Man will keep you discussing sophomoric philosophy long in to the night, as the theatrical trailer promised. It suggests to me the old dichotomy between ancient and modern philosophy, those great Romans believed that one must have a reason to live, and failing that drink a bitter draught. These days living is default and we must have a reason to die. Perhaps that's how our absurd culture manages to perpetuate itself.
I can't claim to have The Minus Man all squared in my head. Wherefore the mysterious fainting of Siegert, who murdered Jane and why, the extent to which Siegert may be manipulated by supernatural forces or perverse destiny. What the hell was going on between Ferrin and Vann? Of course this suggests that the film will reward multiple viewings.
Perhaps the best reason to watch the film for all you bloods out there is that Mercedes Ruehl in this movie is most eminently f***able. Real wet dream material.
In case you are nauseated by my dizzying verbosity consider how many of the instances of it in this review are anagrams of Vann Siegert. Something to ponder my friends. Especially as Vann in not in any encyclopedia of first names. I would suggest that 'never a sting' may be an intentional anagram.
The drifter Vann Siegert (Owen Wilson) is a polite and good looking man
that does not drink, who drives his truck without specific destiny.
When he sees people that he thinks deserve to die, he simply poisons
them and hides their bodies. He has also daydream with two federal
agents. When he settles in a small town, he is lodged by a couple with
problems, gets a job in the post office and starts a relationship with
his colleague Ferrin (Janeane Garofalo). After Christmas and many
deaths, he leaves town.
"The Minus Man" is an original movie about serial killer. Owen Wilson plays a deranged cold-blooded serial killer that scares because he is sweet and loved by people around him, therefore totally different from the usual cliché of criminal. The singer Sheryl Crow has a minor, but effective participation in the role of an addicted junkie and his first victim in the story. The free merchandise of the manufacturer of sneakers is shameful and the "minus" of this good movie. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Um a Menos" ("Less One")
Typical Sundance film: weird and off beat. Vann Siegert is not your usual serial killer; no, he slays in peculiar ways. Siegert, a likable drifter, is starting to come unraveled but manages to keep his dark side locked away and his secrets his own. Good drama: thumbs up.
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