A.V. Club Most Read

News Newswire Great Job, Internet!
TV Club All Reviews What's On Tonight
Video All Video A.V. Undercover A.V. Cocktail Club Film Club
Reviews All Reviews Film TV Music Books
Features All Features AVQ&A What's On Tonight
Sections Film Tv Music Food Comedy Books Games Aux
Our Company About Us Contact Advertise Privacy Policy Careers RSS
Onion Inc. Sites The Onion The A.V. Club ClickHole Onion Studios

The Man

-
-

The Man

Director: Les Mayfield
Runtime: 83 minutes
Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Eugene Levy, Susie Essman

Community Grade

  • A
  • A-
  • B+
  • B
  • B-
  • C+
  • C
  • C-
  • D+
  • D
  • D-
  • F
?

Your Grade

?

The great irony of action-comedies involving renegade cops is that all maverick law-enforcement professionals tend to rebel in a nearly identical fashion. So it would perhaps be fair to describe these irreverent anti-heroes not as playing by their own rules, but as playing by the renegade-cop rules, which dictate that the in-your-face crime-stopper must curse; treat traffic laws, civil liberties, and Miranda rights as personal affronts; ruin one or more marriages through obsessive commitment to work; and scowl indignantly when superior officers angrily demand their badges and guns after they go too far.

In The Man, Samuel L. Jackson plays an ATF agent in a performance that doesn't playfully spoof his tough-guy image so much as lazily recycle it. In a star turn that amounts to little more than a sneer, a steely glare, and a never-ending stream of profanities, Jackson plays a distrustful Detroit lawman who, through a series of events far too idiotic to recount, ends up recruiting visiting dental-supplies salesman Eugene Levy as a makeshift partner in his bid to bring down a big-time arms dealer.

Neither Jackson nor the equally typecast Levy is called upon to convey anything beyond the broadest outlines of their personas: Jackson glares, curses, and behaves like a badass, while Levy wiggles his caterpillar eyebrows, chatters nervously, and wrestles with meat-induced flatulence. As in many renegade-cop movies, including Jackson's lifeless redux of Shaft, the problem of police brutality in this post-Rodney King, post-Amadou Diallo era is treated as a glib joke. When Jackson beats an informant over the head with a trashcan lid, or pins him against a wall with his car, the audience is expected to laugh rather than be horrified by a wanton abuse of power. Then again, it seems silly to get angry about a trifle as inconsequential as The Man, a movie whose reliance on cliché, formula, and stereotype demand only the tiniest sliver of attention. It's the kind of featherweight slot-filler people turn off after 15 minutes on a plane or have on in the background on cable while they vacuum the floor.