Synopsis

Notable as the directorial debut of Blade Runner co-scripter Hampton Fancher, this darkly comic thriller stars affable Owen Wilson as Vann Siegert, a different brand of serial killer: one who actually believes he's doing his deeply depressed victims a service of mercy. Wandering up the West Coast, Vann chooses victims from a parade of colorful social misfits -- including a haggard junkie (singer Sheryl Crow) whose pain he ends with a nip from his flask of poison amaretto -- and expounds on his motives with a pocket tape recorder (a drawling monologue that serves as the film's narrative voice-over). A brief layover in Owensville eventually finds Vann in the company of quarreling middle-aged couple Doug and Jane (Brian Cox and Mercedes Ruehl), who grow fond of the young drifter's amiable demeanor and take him on as a boarder. After landing a job at the local post office, Vann catches the eye of co-worker Ferrin (Janeane Garofalo), and a tentative romance blossoms -- but even love can't distract Vann from his crusade to terminate people's unhappiness: "They come to me like moths, because I shine," he explains. Though not the complex psychological game it purports to be, The Minus Man is an intriguing character study -- imagine a kindler, gentler version of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer -- with some clever twists and fine performances, including a touching portrayal from the usually acerbic Garofalo. Geared more to the art-movie crowd than to fans of Hitchcockian thrills, this film opened to raves at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. ~ Cavett Binion, Rovi

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