Hippo Manchester
September 15, 2005

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The Man (PG-13)
by Amy Diaz

Eugene Levy and Samuel L. Jackson take a vacation from being good at their profession to pick their way through the buddy-cop-movie clichés and tired white-guy-meets-black-guy jokes of The Man.

After seeing The Man I was struck with the urge to do something for Jackson and Levy — a card, a box of cookies, perhaps a little money. Watching The Man gave me the same sense of embarrassment as walking in on someone while they are on the toilet or being with an acquaintance when their pet dies or they are arrested for embezzling. There’s embarrassment, there’s a sense that nothing you say will really accurately reflect the situation, there’s an urgent desire for a hasty retreat.

All of these feeling held true for me throughout The Man — especially the desire for retreat. The movie, though only about an hour and a half, did seem to go on forever though showed us nothing new — like a four-hour car ride from your garage to the end of your driveway.

You will perhaps want to avert you eyes when you first see Agent Derrick Vann (Jackson), the federal agent whose partner is killed in Detroit at the beginning of the movie. Your partner was dirty so you’re dirty, an internal affairs agent yells at Vann with all the conviction of a man yelling lines off a cue card. Vann must then get a lawyer and let him settle it like an adult. Ha! No, of course he must set off to solve the mystery of his partner’s murder and prove that he’s not involved. The scheme involves a meeting with a gunrunner in a coffee shop. Vann is late so the gun deal thinks his business is with a dental supply salesman named Andy Fiddler (Levy), all middle American and full of farm-country goodness alone in the dangerous city for the first time. The spazzy, good-natured Fiddler doesn’t quite know what to do with himself in this cops-and-robbers world so he does the wrong thing, over and over again until Vann is able to convince him to act as a pawn in the bust of the gun dealer. And then he stutters and reacts with a near-mentally-deficient-level of earnestness through some more unlikely scenarios.

The Man takes every bit of natural style and bad-ass-ness from Jackson and every bit of genuine humor from Levy and leaves them naked and scared with nothing to cover themselves with but fart jokes and limp bit of action. Stare at your feet, try to change the conversation, comment about the weather — yes, even while watching this movie the less said and noticed about it the better.