The Minus Man
There have been many, many movies about monsters. Giant lizards, giant sharks, runaway robots and aliens form distant planets. While these movies can frighten you for a little while, the lights come up in the theater (or home theater as the case may be) and your logical side of the brain takes over again and you know there was nothing to be truly frighten about. The Minus Man is also about a monster but one far more lasting in how it frightens you. Vann Siegert (Owen Wilson) is a drifter. He is a young man that moves around from town to town. He is pleasant, polite person, one you would invite to your backyard for a barbecue. He is also a serial killer. This is were the true horror of this story comes in. Vann is so normal in appearance that you would never suspect him of being responsible for so many murders. Its like the line Wednesday Addams has that was so chilling in the Addams Family film, (Im going as a psychotic killer, they look like everyone else). When we first see Vann he is stopping in a bar where he meets a pretty young alcoholic/junkie (Sheryl Crow). He offers her a lift after paying her bar tab and they pull over so she can shoot up. While the drug drifts over her Vann gives her a drink from a hip flask he carries. Soon she is dead. The flask contains a potent and deadly poison. Vann is so polite that he even murders his victims in a gentle manner. Soon, Vann drifts into a small town where he gets a room in the home of a middle age couple (Mercedes Ruehl and Brain Cox). Doug and Jane are not a happy couple. Jane is at first very wary of Vann but Doug takes to him immediately like the son he always wanted. Soon the killings start. First with a local football star, then other succumb to mysterious death. Vann gets a job in the local Post Office where he meets Ferrin (Janeane Garofalo). Ferrin is immediately taken with Vann and pursues him romantically. Vann is slow to respond to the advances of this young woman. The story does not reach the conclusion you expect but rather takes several strange twists that will hold your interest.
The casting here is spectacular. Wilson as the quiet killer is underplayed with masterful intent. In private Wilson shows the demons at work in Vanns mind but we never catch a glimpse when he is among others. Cox and Ruehl are great as the local couple with a lot of disturbance just under the surface. They permit their characters to grow reluctantly. While watching their performances you get the feeling of spying at them through a window into a real home. The best performance second only to Wilson is Garofalo. Audiences are used to seeing this comedic talent in wild, urban savvy roles. Here she is a small town girl just looking for love and acceptance. She is almost doe-eyed when she looks at Vann. She brings tenderness to the role none of her precious movies ever hinted at.
Hampton Fancher has his freshman directorial effort with Minus Man. He was previously best known as the screenwriter for Blade Runner he has the arduous task of maintaining the perfect pace for this film. In this film pacing is everything. Too slow and the audience will be bored. Too fast and you lose the entire concept of the story. Fancher pulls this off seemingly without effort. He frames each scene perfectly. He has a straightforward style that does not rely upon different camera angles but instead sets the mood with character placement and incredible lighting. I look forward to more from this novel writer/director.
The disc is plain vanilla as far as extras. The one extra of note is a textual look at most of the famous serial killers from Jack the Ripper on. The sound is great. The sub woofer punctuates the mood of the film while the rear speakers enfold you. The anamorphic transfer with 1.85:1 is clear and without fault. This is a quiet, even paced film about a true monster. After seeing this film you will never look at strangers on the street the same way again.