Man, The

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 09/09/05 00:06:02

"It really is as bad as it looks."
1 stars (Sucks)

I just saw a blurb on one of the Internet news sites that I read that the producers of “The Man” are working on a plan to show the film in the Houston Astrodome as a diversion for the thousands of hurricane victims currently holed up there. While the sentiment is nice, I suppose, it would be even nicer if they decided to forgo the publicity angle altogether and show them a movie that might genuinely entertain those who could really use even a temporary lift of the spirits right about now. It wouldn’t be too hard since there are literally thousands of movies out there that would fit those parameters. Hell, you could show them “The Day After Tomorrow” and it would probably go over better than this witless and depressing collection of action-comedy/mismatched partner cliches which wastes two usually reliable actors, Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy, in a project as lifeless and generic as its title.

Levy, in a rare above-the-title role, stars as a nerdy dental-supply salesman who journeys from the peaceful environment of Wisconsin to the mean streets of Detroit for a sales conference. Jackson is an angry cop hot on the trail of a team of illegal gun dealers (led by Luke Goss) looking to find a buyer for a load of weapons stolen from the police evidence room by his corrupt (and now dead) partner. The dealers arrange to meet Jackson up a deal with what may be the least effective bit of subterfuge in film history; they tell him to show up at a crowded diner in the morning and signal them by reading a copy of USA Today. Since the leader of the bad guys is British (naturally), he apparently doesn’t know that one of our greatest national shames is that USA Today is America’s most popular newspaper and so when he enters and finds Levy studying the colorful pie charts, he inevitably mistakes him for Jackson, whom he has never seen before, and begins the deal with him instead.

When Jackson realizes what has happened, he does what any cop would do under the circumstances–he forces Levy to drive around with him and continue to pose as a gun buyer. As the day progresses, the various deceptions begin grow more and more complicated (especially when Jackson becomes convinced that Levy is with Internal Affairs and Levy is forced by the government to wear a wire to get the goods on Jackson), Levy begins to get on Jackson’s nerves more and more and the audience begins to incessantly check their watches, not believing that 85 minutes could actually seem so long. Most of those 85 minutes, by the way, are dedicated to jokes based on the individual conceits that farting is funny, police brutality is even funnier and that the sight of a nerdy white guy trying to sound like a tough black man is side-splitting.

I am willing to admit that each of those conceits could serve as the basis for something amusing (hell, practically anything can serve as the basis for humor) but this film merely deploys them in the crudest manner possible in a desperate bid for laughs. Levy tells Jackson that he has problems digesting red meat and Jackson still insists on feeding him a hamburger. Jackson pins an informant against a chain-link fence with his car and pounds on him with a phone book. Most excruciating of all, there is a scene where Levy and Jackson, caught by the bad guys, are forced to play out a scene in which Levy orders Jackson around and calls him his “bitch.” The latter, in particular, is a low point in a film full of low points; Levy looks appalled at what he is being asked to do while Jackson seems to be mentally reminding himself that all he has to do is get through this film and then he can go off to do “Snakes on a Plane.”

“The Man” is the kind of movie that appears one weekend, disappears the next weekend and eventually winds up filling the programming gaps on cable channels that you tend to skip over in order to get to the good stuff. It isn’t funny, it isn’t exciting and even for director Les Mayfield, whose filmography consists of one Pauly Shore film (“Encino Man”), one Martin Lawrence film (“Blue Streak”), two pointless remakes (“Flubber” and “Miracle on 34th Street”) and “American Outlaws,” it is a black mark on a resume not exactly bursting with classics. Trust me, there are much better films out there for you to spend your time and money on this weekend. Barring that, you could always rent a copy of “Midnight Run” and see how the basic premise works when such elements as wit, energy and snazzy performances are thrown into the mix. If you can’t get your hands on a copy of that one, you could stare at a blank wall for 85 minutes and still come up ahead of anyone unlucky enough to find themselves in the company of “The Man.”

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