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The Minus Man

An offbeat serial killer picture that eschews the usual snarky humor, bloody special effects and urgent race to stop the butcher before he kills again in favor of a zen-like sense of detached observation. Vann Siegler (Owen Wilson, of the crooked nose and little mouth pursed into a perpetual "o") is the hollow man, an amiable-seeming drifter whose placid exterior conceals a bone-chilling secret; he's a serial poisoner who picks his victims from among the human tumbleweeds he encounters on the road. Vann isn't a mad dog, or a powder-keg itching for someone to look at him the wrong way; he's methodical, quiet and engaged in constant self-analysis, though he doesn't seem to have figured out anything about himself or why he does the things he does. He just does them. Vann wanders into a tranquil small town and takes a room in the home of Doug and Jane Dean (Brian Cox, Mercedes Reuhl), a quietly unhappy couple who gradually begin to treat him more like a son than a lodger. Doug gets Vann a job at the local post office, where he drifts into an affair with lonely co-worker Ferrin (Janeane Garofolo), begins picking off victims closer to home and is almost unmasked completely by accident. Actor turned screenwriter Hampton Fancher, probably best known as half of the team who wrote BLADE RUNNER, makes his directing debut with this hard-to-get-a-handle-on, not-quite-thriller. His choice of material is certainly interesting; Vann embodies real-life FBI profiler John Douglas's much quoted remark that Hollywood has serial killers all wrong; if they were really so brilliant they'd find better things to do than cut up women. But the banality of faceless evil isn't actually all that compelling on the hoof; the film's more interesting as a curiosity than as a film.