The Man

Movie Information

Genre: Odd-Couple Buddy Comedy
Director: Les Mayfield
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Eugene Levy, Luke Goss, Susie Essman, Miguel Ferrer
Rated: PG-13

No, The Man is not the worst movie ever made — what an accomplishment that would be in 2005! But it ranks high on the list of most predictable and useless.

If there’s any truth to the old saw that 100 monkeys left alone with typewriters would eventually write Hamlet, then this film feels like it could easily be one of their earlier efforts … possibly done on the afternoon of their first day of exploring the keyboard of their respective Olivettis. Oh, sure, there are three credited human screenwriters; I won’t embarrass their families by mentioning their names, but they have credits that include writing things like Troop Beverly Hills and Soul Survivors — tripe that even the theoretical simian scribes might be embarrassed to sign.

Is this monkey business as bad as those titles? Maybe not, but really do you want to fritter away eight bucks and 83 minutes of your time on a movie where the best that can be said is that it isn’t as bad as Soul Survivors? Oh, I guess it can also be noted that Samuel L. Jackson is more fun here than he was as one of the borderline-animatronic characters in Star Wars III. So what?

You can also make the observation that this is a better choice for Eugene Levy than his brilliant career move of appearing in the Olsen Twins movie New York Minute. Apart from being a comment on the relativity of things, this isn’t much of an endorsement.

Grimly predictable, The Man presents Jackson as an improbable undercover ATF agent — prone to wearing his I.D. around his neck and announcing his job as loudly as possible at every turn (in one memorable instance over a police-car loudspeaker on a crowded street) — with an anger/authority problem. Jackson’s character accidentally teams up with Levy as a nebbishy dental supply salesman who’s stumbled into his sting operation on arms dealers. The idea, of course, is that Jackson gets to swear, bluster and abuse his accidental partner (looking suitably put-out at every turn), while Levy does the nerdy, annoying counterpoint thing. From this withered acorn of a premise, a mighty oak of hilarity is supposed to grow. Unfortunately, the best it achieves is sickly sapling status.

If there was an original thought in the entire movie, I missed it. The Man is a compendium of every odd-couple pairing ever made — tricked out with a sufficiently high flatulence quotient to satisfy the requirements of the most demanding 5 year old. The entire film seems predicated on the idea that people being pissed-off is inherently funny. Not only is Jackson’s character in a perpetually vile mood, the same can be said of his immediate supervisor (Susie Essman, The Secret Lives of Dentists), the Internal Affairs investigator out to bring him down (Miguel Ferrer, The Manchurian Candidate), Jackson’s ex-wife (Rachael Crawford, When Night Is Falling), the Euro-trash arms dealer (Luke Goss, Blade 2), and so on.

Well, if you were stuck in this movie, you’d be mighty cheesed, too. That consideration does not translate into a laff-riot for the viewer, however. There are a few OK jokes along the way, but far too few.

Director Les Mayfield brings all the cinematic creativity to the proceedings that he demonstrated on his cute-boys-with-big-guns Western American Outlaws — an assessment which the five or six people who actually saw that opus will fully understand. Considering that locally The Man is up against the state fair, I suspect most people will consider their time better spent with the world’s largest pig and smallest horse. I will not say they would be wrong in that choice. Rated PG-13 for language, rude dialogue and some violence.

— reviewed by Ken Hanke

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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