The Minus Man

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

When there is a movie that touts “From the producers of ‘Sling Blade’…” on the cover, it may be something that you want to check out. Such was the case with “The Minus Man”. I had never really heard of this movie, but when I saw the theatrical trailer (the original one, not the home video one) I realized where I had seen it. I’ll talk more on that in the “extras” section. What I do know is that Owen Wilson, the brains behind such hits as “Bottle Rocket” and “Rushmore” is right up there with Paul Thomas Anderson as my favorite screen writers. Wilson, with his California surfer looks and talk, has also managed to turn his talents into a very successful acting career as well. He starred in Bottle Rocket (which he wrote), Anaconda, The Haunting and was one of the few cast members who made Armageddon bearable. Yes, I think it’s safe to say that Owen Wilson is a very talented individual. And what better place to showcase his talents than in this quirky, eerie tale of a serial killer?

Wilson plays Vann, a drifter who goes from town to town picking up odd jobs. Nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. However, he meets people, he’s nice, but gives them a drink and all the sudden they turn up dead and/or missing. We first meet Vann in a bar somewhere between Vancouver and New Mexico. Local barfly, Casper (Sheryl Crow in her first movie) hitches a ride with him after the bar and then she turns up dead in a bathroom along the side of the road. As calmly and as quietly as he came, he’s gone…and it’s off to the next town. He eventually ends up in a quiet little town where he leases a room and manages to get on at the local post office. He keeps to himself, but the “man of the house”, Doug (Brian Cox) temps him to go catch a local High School football game. It’s not too long after this that the star player, Gene (Eric Mabius) turns up missing. We then get some insight into what Vann’s motives are…

This is described as a serial killer movie, but after it was over, I couldn’t really classify it as such. When I think serial killer, I think of “Silence of the Lambs” or “Copycat”, but Vann has no rhyme or reason for what he does. After killing Gene (and I don’t feel that I’m giving anything away here, as the movie makes no secret of who or how the people were killed), he confides in the audience (a majority of the movie is done with a first person narration) his two rules: Never give anyone a drink (the drink is poison, and thus what kills the victim) who you know and never give anyone a drink who lives in the same town as you. Odd, how his supposed scruples are justified by not only him, but us as well! Throughout the movie, he excels in the post office, rapidly moving up to the rank of “carrier”, which is apparently a very coveted job. There is a hint of romance between Vann and Fallin (Janeane Garafolo), but it never gets off the ground.

What The Minus Man really makes you do is think. Like “The Usual Suspects” or “Se7en”, you come out of the movie not really knowing what you have just seen. Not to say that it’s bad, but it’s something that you dwell on for a while. I’ve since watched it again, and it makes a bit more sense, but it’s one of those that you’ll want to and have to watch again and again. I can’t recommend it enough.

Video: How does it look?

The Minus Man is shown in widescreen only at it’s original ratio of 1.85:1. As is consistent with Artisan’s DVD’s, the image is enhanced for 16:9 televisions and, of course, it looks great. The colors are bright and sharp and the scenes take place mainly during the daytime. The room Vann stays in is a dull yellow, which might created a saturated effect if the image weren’t so clear. Overall, it’s one good picture.

Audio: How does it sound?

The audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, and does serve it’s purpose. While not a movie for sound, there are moments that take full use of the soundtrack. The menu screens sound better than a lot of the movie, but that’s not to say that the movie sounded bad…it’s just a very dialogue driven movie. Channel seperation is good and clean, and you’ll hear no complaints from me in this department.

Supplements: What are the extras?

One of the things that a studio like Artisan has to contend with is their past performance on DVD. We’ve come to expect such a high standard from a studio like Artisan, anything less that a full-fledged special edition comes as somewhat of a disappointment. With their recent release of “The Limey”, I might have expected that this disc would certainly have a commentary track. No such luck. For a movie like this, a commentary track would have been very interesting. Still, I don’t want to sound like I’m whining here. What Artisan puts out as a regular issue is almost twice as much as some of the larger studios. We are treated to production notes and cast bios (very extensive cast bios at that). Some of the neatest menus that you’ve seen (or me anyway) and biographies of serial killers. There are about twenty biographies of every serial killer ranging from Jack the Ripper to Charles Manson, but they kind of start to freak you out when you relize what they’ve all done.

This brings me to the theatrical trailer. I do recall seeing it in the theaters last Summer. We have two people, a guy and a girl talking about the movie, citing particular examples from it. Evidently, they have been talking about it all night, when the girl realizes what time it is and rushes off to work. We see her strip down and get on her lifeguard outfit (bear in mind this is a trailer, so don’t get any ideas) only to run and find two dead bodies floating in the pool. A lifeguard’s worst dream, and it was all caused because she was 10 minutes late to work because she has been talking about the movie. Not really a big deal, but it struck me as a funny trailer. There is also a regular home video trailer that show the actual movie, but we’ve seen that before…

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