The Austin Chronicle

The Man

Rated PG-13, 83 min. Directed by Les Mayfield. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Eugene Levy, Luke Goss, Anthony Mackie, Susie Essman, Miguel Ferrer, Horatio Sanz.

REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., Sept. 16, 2005

Less a movie than a longform, live-action Celebrity Death Match between its leads, this wheezing comedy may herald the death knell of the interracial buddy-cop farce. It’s not dreadful, but the movie is executed with total indifference, as if its creators are working from a checklist. Hard-ass lieutenant who will demand a good cop’s badge? Check (Essman). British bad guy with good suits? Check (Goss). We’re in Detroit, so we’ll need at least one car chase with American steel. Check (Cadillac and Pinto). Fucking with a black man’s radio? Check (think: Rush Hour).The Man is what you’d get if somebody washed this summer’s Four Brothers and Underclassman together in hot water. Levy is a nebbish (a dental-equipment salesman from Wisconsin) and Jackson is a bad motherfucker (an ATF agent whose dirty partner kicked off in a weapons deal gone wrong). They meet cute (Levy accidentally intercepts the bag from a buy Jackson arranged), and there you have it. Director Mayfield is a veteran helmer of workmanlike star fodder (Flubber and Blue Streak) and has the sense to stay out of his stars’ way, allowing them go at each other for 83 minutes: Jackson handcuffs loquacious Levy and torments him with training bullets; Levy farts and flosses in Jackson’s car. And because Levy is an irresistible force, like erosion, will he eventually penetrate Jackson’s tough veneer, revealing the big teddy bear underneath, and teach him the True Meaning of Friendship? Levy and Jackson are not to be faulted, and sometimes they are indeed enjoyable to watch together. Just the same, the movie is a big yawn. Nothing memorable happens here, unless you’re the type to get excited whenever Jackson does something vaguely Tarantinoid. (In one clumsy allusion, he rhapsodizes about a "tasty burger" and forces Levy to eat one – despite his beef-protein intolerance – with odoriferous results.) Jackson and Levy have starred in bigger stinkers (the Olsens vehicle New York Minute springs painfully to mind), but they deserve better than to be reduced to schtick figures waiting for a committee of screenwriters to give them something to get worked up over.

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