Site created 12/15/97.
review added: 5/15/00
The Minus Man
1999 (2000) - Artisan
review by Dan Kelly of
The Digital Bits
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras):
Specs and Features
111 min, R, widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided,
single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, theatrical trailer, home
video trailer, serial killer biographies, production notes, cast and
crew information, film-themed menu screens with sound and animation,
scene access (35 chapters), language: English (DD 5.1), subtitles:
none, Closed Captioned
Minus Man is the story of a different kind of serial
killer. He doesn't have the menacing grin of Hannibal Lector, nor
the cunning wit of Chucky in Child's Play.
Instead, he is someone who is courteous, considerate, conscientious
and to a certain degree (murder notwithstanding) moral. In short,
he's someone you'd have over for dinner or that you'd let bring your
daughter home after midnight.
Owen Wilson plays Vann, a good-natured boy-next-door who moves
aimlessly from town to town. He settles down in a small town, and
rents a room from Jane (Mercedes Ruehl) and Doug (Brian Cox). Jane
is initially distant and cold toward Vann, and doesn't really want
to get involved with him. Doug, however, quickly takes to Vann and
treats him as his confidant.
Soon thereafter, Doug gets Vann a temporary job at the Post Office.
There he meets Ferrin, played effectively against type by Janeane
Garofalo. Ferrin is quiet and unassuming, and she quickly develops a
crush on Vann. He wins over his boss, and his temporary job becomes
a permanent one. Then the killing starts. But even his method of
killing is sweet. Vann forgoes the traditional knife or gun and opts
instead to kill his victims by lacing their sweet amaretto with
poison. No kicking and screaming. No blood, no violence - no muss,
Part of the reason The Minus Man
is so convincing as a thriller is its level of believability. Never
once does Vann raise his voice, yet we can still see that there is
something brewing beneath what he is telling us in his narration.
Owen Wilson is believable as the friendly neighbor who you think you
know, but when it comes down to it, you know absolutely nothing
about him. He has given you enough of himself to convince you of his
intentions, while still keeping you distant enough to prevent you
from getting to know him.
This, in part, is also the movie's one downfall. There is no
motivation behind what he is doing. He's not killing people he hates
or dislikes. He's not even necessarily killing people he knows. All
we know is that for one reason or another, he feels the need to
kill. Even in his voice-over narration, he doesn't really hit on
what makes him tick or what sends him over the edge and makes him
kill whom he does. Had the director (Blade
Runner scribe Hampton Fancher) given us just a little bit
more inside the head of Vann, the picture would have felt more
complete to me.
Artisan has given us a nice presentation of The
Minus Man. The anamorphic transfer is stunning and nearly
flawless. A lot of soft brights and pastels were used to reflect
Vann's frighteningly sunny disposition, and they come across
beautifully on DVD. There is little visible edge enhancement,
producing nice contrasts between colors. The source print used is
excellent and free of defects. Also effective is the soundtrack.
Though it is a softer 5.1 mix, making only occasional use of the
rear channel speakers, the sound is still good. There is a good
balance between music and effects tracks, and dialogue is never
The extras, like the film, are strange and interesting. Most
notably odd is the film's theatrical trailer, presented in full
frame. There are no clips from the movie in the trailer, just a
couple people leaving a theatre talking about the film. I'm not
going to give too much away here, but as they are talking, the woman
realizes she is late for work and finds something waiting for her
when she gets there. It gives you absolutely no idea what the movie
is about, but teases you enough to make you want to run out and see
it... or completely avoid it. You'll have to watch the trailer to
find out what it is.
Another noteworthy feature, though not directly related to the
film, is a list of 15 of the most infamous serial killers and brief
bios about them. That, in and of itself, was enough to keep me
looking over my shoulder. The remaining features are pretty
standard, including cast and crew biographies and production notes.
As a side note, Artisan is one of my favorite indie studios, but I
do wish they would make more of an effort in putting subtitles on
their DVD releases. All things considered, this is not a bad set of
Artisan made a real impression on the movie-going public in the
summer and early fall of 1999 with three chilling releases -
The Blair Witch Project,
Stir of Echoes, and
The Minus Man. They've also
shown their commitment to the DVD format by putting out great DVD
releases of each of these movies. The
Minus Man is an effective, frightening movie that does
something a lot of movies with more blood and violence aren't able
to do. It actually scared me. Will it scare you? I don't know, and
neither will you unless you watch it yourself.