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September 04, 2005

The Man

Noxious Pair
Jackson And Levy Share A Stinker
By Cole Smithey


"The Man’s" nebulous title indicates the sloppy nature of an action comedy movie that emits painfully little of either genre enticement. Samuel L. Jackson is as funny as a kidney stone in his role as undercover Federal Agent Derrick Vann who mercilessly abuses amiable-but-exasperating dental supply salesman Andy Fiddler (Eugene Levy) in the interest of busting a gang of Detroit gunrunners. Three screenwriters jointly taint their careers in a by-committee comedy that never coalesces above its rambling storyline. Fiddler visits Detroit, from Wisconsin, to speak at a dental convention when he’s innocently swept up in Agent Vann’s frantic attempt to disassociate himself from departmental suspicion for a recent inside job that implicates him via his newly deceased partner. The movie is primarily an excuse for Jackson to spew obscenities while Levy tempers the film’s crudeness with his arsenal of goofy facial expressions and earthy wit.

There are two repeated jokes that cut through the disintegrating comedy. The first culls from a certain amount, and quality, of flatulence created by Andy Fiddler, that Agent Vann must respond to with farcical indignation. The scenes dip the movie into a grade-school humor that acknowledges the filmmaker’s sense of desperation to create laughs.


The second, and even more spurious comic set-up, arrives through a game of turnabout between Vann and Fiddler regarding which man publicly serves as the other guy’s "bitch." After Vann verbally humiliates and physically abuses Fiddler, the dentist exacts his revenge by making Vann declare to arms dealer villain Joey Trent (Luke Goss – "Blade 2") that he’s not a cop but rather a "bitch" to the hirsute geek with the bad tie. It’s a howler of a joke but the humor soon has nowhere to go because the screenwriters weren’t clever enough to follow it up.

Director Les Mayfield ("Blue Streak") relies on a funky musical score by John Murphy ("28 Days Later") and a rugged production design by Carol Spier – "eXistenZ") to provide an atmosphere of urban slickness. But the whole movie has none of the flatulent potency it professes to abhor. It is nonetheless a stinker.

Rated PG-13. 84 mins. (D) (One Star)


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