Like the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Showtime and Taxi seemingly haunt every shot of Les Mayfield’s shrill white cop/black cop buddy movie, the latest cinematic spectacle of odd-couple pairings and witless racial jokes. In The Man, Samuel L. Jackson plays tough special agent Derrick Vann, determined to find the person who murdered his corrupt partner and clear his name of any suspicion for the crime at Internal Affairs. Along the way, a nerdy salesman named Andy Fidler (Eugene Levy) is confused for a Turkish drug smuggler by the bad guys and becomes unwillingly involved in Vann’s sting operation. At just over 80 minutes, the best thing that can be said about The Man is that it knows when to quit. After a few repetitive encounters with the foreign villain Joey (Luke Gross), and an on-cue visit to the daughter’s dance recital for familial drama, Vann and Andy quickly bring down the arms dealers and—how sweet—learn a thing or two from each other in the process. Since Jackson and Levy seem to be hired to give their Greatest Hits here—Jackson as Jules from Pulp Fiction and Levy the inappropriate dad of American Pie—both actors wisely go through the motions, dishing catchphrases they ought to know by heart now. (The most depressing, a shout-out to Quentin Tarintino, is when Vann says that if Andy continues to talk “I can’t be held responsible for my actions.”) Even the most optimistic moviegoer will be hard-pressed to laugh at the film’s jokes, which are little more than subdued references to more famous points in movie history: Vann’s Shaft-like attire and hydraulics-running Cadillac, Andy’s ongoing “flatulence” problem and the appointment of several different male “bitches.” Predicated on racial profiling and homophobic gags, The Man‘s formula for teenage audience success is so rigorously engineered that watching it becomes a mixture of cinematic melancholy and an almost nauseating form of boredom. By the time the last fart joke pitters out, you can almost envision the foul-mouthed nuns about to enter the frame.
- New Line Cinema
- 83 min
- Les Mayfield
- Stephen Carpenter, Margaret Oberman, Jim Piddock
- Samuel L. Jackson, Eugene Levy, Luke Goss, Susie Essman, Miguel Ferrer, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Rushton, Horatio Sanz, Randy Butcher
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