The Minus Man (1999)


An unassuming serial killer named Vann (Owen Wilson) takes up residence in a small town after poisoning a drug addict (Sheryl Crow). Vann finds residence in the home of a couple of grieving parents who are renting out the room of their missing teenage daughter, and takes up a job as a mailman during the Christmas season. After he poisons a star high school athlete, the town is turned upside down and Vann watches the ramifications of his actions while contemplating what it all means. There are quite a few twists and turns as Vann’s compulsive need to randomly poison people begins to put his new life in jeopardy.

310x229_theminusman1999-300x222The Minus Man is a strange film that does an amazing job of putting the viewer in the head space of it’s main character. Owen Wilson is the perfect choice the play as Vann, as he has a quiet and likable quality about him that makes he seem like the last person you’d expect to be a serial killer. The detached quality of the film makes the viewer feel uneasy — the film walks a line between pitch black comedy, thriller, and drama as we’re drawn into the lives of the people in this small town. Even though Vann is the killer, he is somewhat empathetic to the viewer, even as he joins in the search party for the missing teen.
The exact cause of why Vann kills these people is never explicitly stated. His monologues that narrate the film seem detached and he doesn’t wish any malice upon any of these people, but does seem to relish the power he has over them. When the town forms a search party to find his missing victim, Vann takes delight in the way he has “brought the town together”. Little asides like this are darkly funny and add to the off kilter tone of the film.

Wilson is surrounded by a great cast, including a young (read: before she became annoying) Janeane Garofalo as Ferrin, Vann’s love interest and co-worker, Brian Cox (Super Troopers, Manhunter) as the grieving father who befriends Vann, Meg Foster (They Live, Lords of Salem, 31) as a potential victim, and Dwight Yoakam (Crank 1 & 2, Sling Blade) as imaginary cop who shows up to question Vann every so often.

MCDMIMA EC003The Minus Man is based on the novel of the same name by Lew McCreary, who stars in the film as one of Vann’s random victims. The Minus Man was only one of three books McCreary has written. McCreary also helped write the script for the film adaption, along with Hampton Fancher. Fancher also wrote the script for The Mighty Quinn, Blade Runner and it’s upcoming sequel Blade Runner 2049. Surprisingly, these are the screenplay credits Fancher has and is a rare case of quality over quantity.

I’ve seen The Minus Man a few times over the years, and each time it makes me wonder why it doesn’t get much more recognition than it does. I don’t remember much publicity for it when it was released, and discovered it a couple years after it came out through pure happenstance after purchasing a used VHS copy from a closing down video store. The feeling while watching The Minus Man is one that I still have upon repeat viewings. The disconnect between Vann, his actions, and the people around him carries over to the viewer and the film’s ambiguous ending left me with a quiet feeling of confusion and discontent. The Minus Man is an under rated movie, and if you get a chance to see it, you should.


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