The Man Movie Review
A boring, all-you-can-regurgitate buffet of buddy-movie/cop-movie banality, "The Man" would collapse under the weight of its own generic stupidity if it weren't for the screen presence of Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy.
Continuity-blind director Lee Mayfield ("Blue Streak") asks very little of these two entertaining actors -- just that Jackson rehash his hotheaded, wise-cracking tough-guy persona for the umpteenth time and Levy do the same with his familiar babbling, middle-aged suburban dork character. But such familiarity is the only comfort in a flick so feeble it actually depends on its plot holes to advance the story.
Levy is a dental equipment salesman who inadvertently stumbles into a one-man illegal-arms sting being run by Jackson, a leather-clad, corn-row cool, loose-cannon federal agent forced to prove his innocence after his crooked partner is killed. Shopworn odd-couple antics and idiot-reliant misunderstandings ensue, along with lots of routine bad-cop behavior from Jackson. While loquacious Levy frets and stammers, Jackson beats up informants, threatens witnesses, borrows $500,000 from an evidence locker (what could possibly go wrong?), and endangers civilians -- all of which is played for laughs without any hint of success.
Will he have to turn in his badge and gun and finish the investigation against orders? Will Levy be forced to improvise, screwing up Jackson's plan? Will Mayfield resort to fart jokes again and again in desperation? Will the Eurotrash villains from Central Casting be behind bars in time for Levy to give a speech at a dentistry convention and Jackson to attend his daughter's ballet recital, thus proving to his ex-wife that he's not an absentee father?
Take a wild guess.
If there were Academy Awards for Most Unoriginal Screenplay and Most Uninspired Direction, "The Man" would be this year's odds-on favorite for both, but if the monotonous, merely expedient lead performances are any indication, Jackson and Levy didn't much care. Occasionally, their delivery of dead-on-arrival punchlines breathes a half-second of life into "The Man." (The scene in which Levy calls Jackson "my bi-atch" is the movie's only comedic high point.) But most of the time you can almost hear them thinking to themselves, "It will be over soon. Just close your eyes and think of the money."