The Minus Man

It’s difficult to believe Owen Wilson as anything but the character he’s been typecast as lately (see You, Me, and Dupree, Drillbit Taylor).  His overly familiar voice sounds ironic, even when he’s trying not to be.  Even so, The Minus Man is a successfully creepy movie about a seriel poisoner named Vann.

Vann seems to have no direction, and he’s driving through the northwest.  He wastes no time poisoning those around him when he gets a chance, including a drunk junkie he picks up in a bar, played by Sheryl Crow.  He explains in his defense (in the disturbing calm narration) that he never does anything violent to anyone, he just makes them go to sleep.  Forever.  Settling in a quaint little town, he gets a room in a house, owned by a strange couple, Doug and Jane (Jane is short-tempered, and cries at random, and when drunk, Doug hits himself hard enough to leave extensive bruises) played by Brian Cox and Mercedes Ruehl.  Jane is killed in a suspicious accident and it’s unclear whether or not Doug had a hand in it.  Doug takes a liking to Vann, and gets him a job at the post office, where he’s introduced to Ferrin, played by Janine Garofalo (another actor who’s not playing their usual character here).

The film is narrated by Vann.  His calm, emotionless voice is completely disturbing as he explains his methodology of murder, the rules he sets for himself, and describes his desire to be normal.  Wilson’s performance (not just his narration) will creep you out.  The pacing is steady, but slower then you’d expect when you think serial killer thriller, and this will deter many.  However, it’s extremely effective in building tension.  Vann serves as a catalyst in his new small town, bringing to the surface all the issues that were always just beneath the surface.  Director Hampton Fancher (this is only directing credit to date) refused to sensationalize the dark, and disheartening acts of his characters, forcing us to really look at them as people, and believe me, what you see isn’t pretty.  If you watch this expecting Saw VI, you’ll be vastly disappointed, just keep the term ‘psychological thriller’ in mind, and you’ll be perfectly satisfied.

★★★☆

Rottentomatoes: 59%Cream of the Crop: 71%

I couldn’t track down a actually trailer, so here’s a promotional spot screened at Sundance Film Festival before the release of The Minus Man.

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