B. ALAN ORANGE'S SNEAK PEEK'S: The Man
"All my balls ever do is itch."
Sitting, waiting to be entertained: That's my new mantra. I just wanted one movie to come along this summer and sweep me off my feet. Sadly, that golden moment never arrived. And now the season's over. Done. Kaput. Finished. And I think it's all been a scam. This sudden transition into our fall movie months seems pretty seamless. It's a harsh lesson to learn, but it doesn't really matter when an aimless stretch of celluloid comes out nowadays. Its either going to be pretty bad or fairly mediocre anytime of the year. And, I hate to say it, but the first real post mortem film of the fall is just that…
Fairly mediocre. Teetering on bad. But it has a couple of performances that almost make up for its lack of entertainment value. Almost.
Everything worth doing has already been done. But there's no harm in doing it again. Just realize, even if it's produced better or buffed to perfection, that euphoria of never having seen anything like it before is an impossible feeling to reactivate. Despite what you could say in defense of any given film that comes out nowadays, there's always going to be something (most likely a lot of things) to compare it too. We've reached the point in film history where everything is a rip-off of a rip-off of a remake that came from an idea on a TV show. And that's definitely how you could categorize THE MAN.
If The Man sounds like some sort of late 70s exploitation flick to you, you'd be right. The core of its brittle structure is a soft swirling gas that has been squeezed from a hundred funcore B grade action flicks that now rest in some heaping VHS graveyard pile. The exact kind of straight-to-video fodder that New Line Cinema has always lifted from waist and made watchable on a consistent basis. They excel at producing ocular municipalities of entertainment that are fun to watch but not exactly good for you. I guess, for the lack of a better word, New Line Cinema knows how to make tasty junk food cinema that's seemingly delicious yet will rott your tongue black. And truth be told, when I sit down in front of any set of flickering images nowadays, that's exactly what I want to watch. I don't want to be enlightened at all.
The Man is another such picture. A throw-away caper that will preoccupy your overanxious mind for a few precious moments. And by a few, I mean that it's only a measly hour and twenty-three minutes long. The perfect film length if you've been drinking copious amounts of alcohol in the garage before the screening. 80-some minutes is as long as the average gentleman can hold his liquor-piss. At least The Man has that going for it (Also see New Line's Run Ronnie, Run and Paramount's Pootie Tang).
I was actually looking forward to this. The trailer looked promising. It seems like its been a long time since we've had one of this awkward buddy pairings, where the two mismatched souls try to solve some wacky caper. When the chemistry is right, these on-screen moments can illuminate and become magical. The film knows this from the outset, and it tries hard to wrangle a bit of static juice out of its co-stars. The inspired pairing of Eugene Levy and Sam L. Jackson is a favorable pick. And together, they share a tight handshake. It's just too bad the script doesn't really know what to do with them. The only thing The Man is missing is a story. All things considered, that seems kind of important too me.
The production notes wave this off as an homage to Midnight Run. It reminds me more of The In-Laws, especially since Eugene Levy dabbles in Dentistry equipment and Alan Arkin, himself, was a dentist. The connection is there, but I haven't heard mention of that film in advertising. Maybe because the remake sucked so bad and they don't want to bring it up in mixed company or have The Man associated with Micheal Douglas-esque slapstick. Yeah? Probably.
The Man could have never been better than those previous two films. It could have been just as good. Just as funny. But those movies already did both sides of the coin to perfection. And they had interesting narratives. If only Levy and Jackson had of been in the In-Laws remake instead of Michael Douglas and Albert Brookes. Then we would have had something. Or better yet, why didn't they just remake Midnight Run straight-up without emulating it? I know most people are prone to frown on remakes nowadays, but it would have been better than what we have here.
The Man's script is an empty barrel of nothingness. It's Schiavo. The Levy-Jackson combination is a protein-like substance that is essentially being wasted. They're funny together. They're nutritious and weigh the back of the throat with a hearty laugh at times, but the non-existent beat-structure on display here has them trapped like two rats in a cage. And I mean that literally. The entire film consists of these two in a car, driving around town. Always in the front seat. It seems like they could get done what they need to do in about ten minutes worth of screen time. This thing gives Ghost Dog a run for its money. Have you ever dreamed of being locked in a car for an hour and twenty minutes with Sam and Eugene? Well, here's your chance. Live the dream. Just don't say I didn't warn you.
Basically, Jackson's cop character is trying to retrieve some stolen guns before they disappear out of state. He uses Levy as his gun-buying decoy. That's the set-up. There really is no pay off. And it's a shame. Seriously. I'm kind of in shock about what's been put in front of me. Why? I'll tell you why…
Eugene Levy is one funny jerk. We all know that. And he manages to be both funny and a jerk here, at the same time. That's no surprise. He's good when he bounds outside of the sentence-free storyline and acts to his own nature. He's worth seeing the movie for. Sure. But this is the kicker. Sam Jackson. This guy has been sucking hardcore lately. His acting skills have been all over the map. He was in the biggest movie of the year, and he had one of the most important scenes in the legacy of that film series. But in my opinion, he blew it. The guy showed up in front of Emperor Palatine all bloated and distended. And he spouted his dialogue like a losing little league coach that just wanted to go home. To me, he looked like a defeated actor. And I don't blame George Lucas' weak dialogue or his inability to interact with fleshy thespians. Why? Because I think Sam could have kicked a bit of dust in this last turn as Mace Windu. Really put his heart into it. You're going to tell me he's not as good an actor as Ian McDermott? It should have been inside of him. It wasn't. And that's a shame.
The surprising thing is; he follows that very significant role with a co-starring part in this throw-away, do-nothing of a film. And what does he do? He acts his mother f*cking heart out. Sam delvers a powerful cadence here that is both magnetic and believable. He's good. He's really good. He's too good for this film. It's like he's acting for his life, and I guess he is. It could have been one of his best performances, if only the movie wasn't so weak. You'll be so distracted by what's going on in the foreground action, you'll probably be too annoyed to care about the artistic work Sam has on display here.
And I'm not kidding about that. First, the film feels like it needs to tell you everything upfront. I hate that. It doesn't let the on-going scenes speak for themselves. The characters are always explaining everything too each other so that the audience is in on what these people, in real life, would never be saying to each other. Then, The Man takes a nauseating turn that it never recovers from. The script actually has Eugene Levy fart. Yes. Fart. A lot. And Sam Jackson literally stands in the background as a Fart Smeller. These guys are supposed to be intelligent. Eugene Levy is supposed to be some sort of Comedic Genius.
GODDAMN IT! THEY BOTH SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER!
I wanted to go to the junket for The Man (which I keep wanting to call Who's the Man?) Just so I could counter Jackson and say, "Come on, Man! Farts! You're going to smell Farts? That's inexcusable. I don't care about Snakes on a mother f*cking Plane! I disown you." And I would have said it, too. Don't think I wouldn't have…
Ah, yes…So, in conclusion, THE MAN is a mild entertainment that hits at slightly below average. It's watchable for the most part, only because the two actors in question seem to enjoy each others company. Would I run out to see it? No. It'll be in the $6.99 bin at Wal*Mart soon enough, and that's cheaper than an afternoon ticket. If it comes on TV, enjoy. It's a diversion. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Basically, what I'm saying is, "Guys, I'm not mad at ya. But I expect better next time or its curtains for you and your dog!"
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