The Minus Man

The Minus Man (1999)
Artisan Entertainment
Cast: Owen Wilson, Brian Cox, Mercedes Ruehl, Janeane Garofalo
Extras: Theatrical Trailer, Video Trailer, Talent Files, Production Notes, Serial Killer Info

I don’t think that I’ve ever been faced with a film as challenging to review as ’The Minus Man.’ The film is so subtle and dreamlike, that it’s hard to judge. I certainly didn’t hate it, because it’s so innocuous that it would be hard to hate. But, it’s imagery definitely stuck with me.

Owen Wilson (’The Haunting’, ’Armageddon’) stars as Vann, a pleasant drifter who also happens to be a murderer. Vann poisons people at random, whenever the urge hits him. But, for the most part, Vann just wants to be nice to people. Vann comes to a small town and takes a room in the home of Doug (Brian Cox) and Jane (Mercedes Ruehl), a very strange couple. Doug gets Vann a job at the post office, where he meets Ferrin (Janeane Garofalo), who has a crush on him. Vann works hard at his job, and becomes friends with some of the townspeople. And occasionally he kills someone. Vann is aware of his actions and imagines that two FBI agents (played by Dwight Yoakam and Dennis Haysbert) are on his trail. As Vann grows closer to Doug, Jane, and Ferrin, we can’t help but wonder if he’ll go all the way and kill someone close to him.

Once again, ’The Minus Man’ is a very subtle movie, and it doesn’t give the viewer a great deal of answers. We never learn much about Vann, or why he kills. No real moral line is drawn in the film. Writer/director Hampton Fancher (who wrote the screenplay for ’Blade Runner’) gives the film a hallucinatory feel, but Vann’s good-natured character, always helps to keep the film grounded. Still, it’s strange qualities begin to wear thin at almost two hours. Wilson is superb as Vann, playing the role as low-key as possible without totally alienating the audience.

The Artisan DVD of ’The Minus Man’ presents the film in an anamorphic widescreen which is letterboxed at 1.85:1. The picture is quite clear, showing only some minor defects in the source material. The framing is accurate and the colors on the disc are very nice. The audio on the DVD is a Dolby Digital 5.1, which is adequate throughout, but really excells during a hallucination sequence at the one hour and two minute mark, where strange sounds fill the rear speakers. I rarely review trailers, but the theatrical trailer on the DVD is a must see. Instead of showing scenes from the actual film, it shows a couple who have seen ’The Minus Man’ and can’t stop talking about it. It’s very intriguing. The DVD also includes the home video preview, talent files, and production notes. In an interesting move, the DVD offers biographies of about 15 real-life serial killers like Jack The Ripper, Ed Gein, and Jeffrey Dahmer. All around, ’The Minus Man’ DVD is a very unique experience.