The Man is a smörgåsbord of bits taken from infinitely better films, numbering far too many to name here. The only thing keeping its head above water is the presence of two fine actors in Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy. How depressing it is to see them in something this painfully conventional and, from what I can tell, largely improvised. When the bathroom humor is the best part of your film, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. There are three credited screenwriters. Enough said.
Derrick Vann (Jackson) is a tough-talkin’ street cop whose methods for obtaining information would be gladly endorsed by Paul Kersey from Death Wish. His partner has just been killed by a bunch of gunrunners, and in an operation to catch the crooks that goes horribly wrong, Vann ends up being paired with dental supply salesman Andy Fidler (Levy). They must work together to catch these gunrunners who, when you get right down to it, anyone’s grandma should be able to catch because they are so stupid. Fiddler is quite the talker and perfectionist, proudly touting that he’s never met someone who, in the end, didn’t become his friend. Vann has no interest, and neither do the rest of us.
Pulling out all the stops from virtually every buddy-cop movie ever made, screenwriters Jim Piddock, Margaret Oberman, and Stephen Carpenter have crafted a screenplay consisting mostly of uncomfortable racial dialogue (albeit not near as much as I was expecting), bathroom humor, and what has to be the most instances of the phrase “your ass” (or other variations, such as “yo ass”) ever put on film. This is done, of course, to carefully maintain the film’s PG-13 rating so that, you know, seventh graders can see it and brag at school that they finally saw a Samuel L. Jackson movie.
Credit must be given to Jackson and Levy for at least pretending to care. I think director Les Mayfield (he of American Outlaws and Encino Man fame) at least realized that the script was shredded wheat and just let Jackson and Levy have at it. A few chuckles ensue, but that gut buster that you keep waiting for never happens. Hope with me, folks, that Jackson and Levy don’t head down the Ben Kingsley “I’ll do anything for a paycheck” road.
So who is this movie for? I’d say the most easily of entertained or for those who are so bored that playing Battleship against yourself sounds good. The Man is a patchwork job laced with a few recognizable names in the hopes that you’ll shell out nine or ten hard-earned bucks to see it. If there is any mercy to be found, it comes in the form of the eighty-three minute runtime. Tread carefully.
Studio: New Line Cinema
Length: 83 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for language, rude dialogue and some violence.
Theatrical Release: September 9, 2005
Directed by: Les Mayfield
Written by: Jim Piddock & Margaret Oberman & Stephen Carpenter.
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Eugene Levy, Luke Goss, Miguel Ferrer, Susie Essman, Anthony Mackie