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The Man is tired and predictable

By Lady Liberty
web posted September 12, 2005

The Man

* out of ****

The ManWith little desire to see yet another exorcism onscreen (yes, I know that the latest offering in the genre is "based on a true story," but don't they all pretend to be?), I was left with little choice but to see this weekend's other new wide release, The Man. To be fair, I didn't mind all that much. I like buddy movies just fine. I like comedic cop-related buddy movies, in fact, quite a bit (Lethal Weapon or Bevery Hills Cop ring any bells with anybody?).That's why I'm particularly distraught over the latest film ostensibly in the same category. I'm desperately fearful that The Man may have destroyed it all together merely by its close proximity to the subject!

As the movie opens, Detroit BATF Agent Derrick Vann (Samuel L. Jackson) is having a really bad day. His partner has been murdered, and he's a suspect. A storehouse of firearms has been stolen from the evidence locker, and he's a suspect. Internal affairs officers (headed up by actor Miguel Ferrar) issue warnings and ultimatums. And his lieutenant (Susie Essman) is none too happy about any of these things. Vann isn't, either, but at least he decides to try to do something about it.

Meanwhile, a few hundred miles to the west in the great state of Wisconsin, dental equipment salesman Andy Fidler (Eugene Levy) is preparing to give a major speech at a sales convention to be held in (what a surprise) Detroit. His speech is in fine order and his flight is uneventful. But when Andy arrives in Detroit, his simple decision to get a bite to eat lands him right in the middle of the sting operation Vann has set up in an attempt to get the guns back, nab his partner's real killer, and clear his own name.

Fidler, who innocently exhibits the signs a go-between is looking for, ends up in possession of one of the stolen firearms. Worse, the bad guys now think he's their buyer. Vann knows he has only one chance to make the deal, and so he forcibly enlists an uncooperative — and entirely naive — Andy to play along. Faced with certain unattractive choices, Andy does his best to work with Vann (his best, unfortunately, isn't much) and even manages to alleviate some of the suspicions held by the gun dealer's representative, Joey (Luke Goss).

As the deal progresses in fits, starts, mishaps, and misunderstandings, Internal Affairs continues to surveil Vann in the hopes of nabbing themselves a cop gone bad; more bodies pile up; Vann has personal problems; and Andy ends up in jail, worried he'll miss giving his speech. There's a lot going on in The Man! And all of it happens in 90 or so minutes. That it will seem a whole lot longer says something about the film, and it's not saying anything very nice.

Samuel L. Jackson is a good actor. Though he doesn't appear to be slacking off here, there's nothing anyone could do about the horrible lines he's given. I think Eugene Levy is a hoot (he's just wonderful as the earnest father in the American Pie trilogy), but he's not remotely funny in this movie. That's probably because none of his lines are remotely funny. Miguel Ferrar's IA investigator is a caricature at best; Susie Essman is a woman in a man's world artificially made ridiculously prickly by — you guessed it! — some really stupid lines.

The direction isn't terrible (though there are some edits that are), but the screenplay is truly abysmal. The storyline is obvious as all get-out, and the script is trite at best (at other times, it degenerates from "trite" directly to "could this be any dumber?"). Both the director and the writing team have some experience under their respective belts (though the résumés don't contain any films of particular note), so they all should have been better than this. That they aren't makes me wonder how it is they ever got the green light to go ahead with what is obviously intended to be a mass market release.

Is The Man a comedy? No. I know that because it isn't funny (unless you think really badly handled fart jokes are good humor). Is it a cop movie? Not really. There are stereotypes everywhere, but no real cop action, or even jargon. Is it a drama? Seeing as how it's utterly missing any drama or suspense, I'd give that a "no," too. So what exactly is The Man? Just a really bad movie.

I frankly feel bad for the actors caught up in this mess. Each and every one of them deserves better. In honesty, though, I feel even worse for those movie-goers who, either intentionally and with high hopes or by default, end up enduring this film. Entertainment Weekly magazine gave The Man a D+ grade. I think that's wrong. A D+ is a passing grade, and The Man is a complete failure.

POLITICAL NOTES: In a movie that intends a federal agency to comprise a major part of the framework for the storyline, you'd think the scriptwriters could at least get the name of the agency right! But they don't. Although the BATF has been the BATFE (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) for several years, now, it's referenced only as BATF in the film. The movie also gets it wrong when it represents the agents as the good guys (BATFE has a terrible reputation among other federal agencies, and a worse one with gun owners — deserved on both counts). It's only wishful thinking that they'd also be as inept as the movie presents...

FAMILY SUITABILITY: The Man is rated PG-13 for "language, rude dialogue and some violence." I frankly found the entire movie offensive as an insult to my intelligence (in a scantly occupied theatre Friday night, nobody else laughed, either). As a result, I don't believe this movie is suitable for anyone of any age. Anyone old enough to follow the shallow plotline (say, 10 or so and up) is also plenty aware enough to resent having wasted the money on this drivel. I'd recommend that you go see something — anything! — else. If the kids insist, be aware that the fart jokes are harmless and the violence isn't graphic. The language does get rough in places, though, so if you find that objectionable you've another good reason to skip The Man and hold out for what we can hope is a better week for movies next week.

Lady Liberty is a graphic designer and pro-freedom activist currently residing in the Midwest. More of her writings and other political and educational information is available on her web site, Lady Liberty's Constitution Clearing House, at http://www.ladylibrty.com. E-mail Lady Liberty at ladylibrty@ladylibrty.com.

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