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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo © Ava Gerlitz/New Line Productions. ©MMV New Line Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

photo caption:
I'M TELLING YOU, YOU'VE GOT THE WRONG MAN!: Andy Fiddler (Eugene Fiddler, left) tries to convince Special Agent Derrick Vann (Samuel L. Jackson) that he is not a mobster, but that he was mistakenly caught up in Vann's sting operation. end caption.

The Man: Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy as Unlikely Buddies in Unfunny Rip-Off

Movie Review by Kam Williams

In 1982, Eddie Murphy made an unforgettable movie debut in 48 Hours, which was about a detective (Nick Nolte) and a convict (Eddie Murphy) released from prison for two days to help track down the cop killers who had just murdered the police officer's partners. In that hilarious comedy classic, this always at odds twosome spent the bulk of the picture riding around the streets of San Francisco in a colorful convertible, squabbling with each other while searching for the perpetrators.

Why a trio of apparent plagiarists would now step forward to claim authorship of a humorless, watered-down version of that same storyline is beyond the ken of this critic, especially when the production is as embarrassing as this. Nonetheless, that is precisely what we have with The Man, one of the most shameless rip-offs of a hit film in recent memory.

The scriptwriters are Jim Piddock, Stephen Carpenter, and Margaret Oberman. Coincidentally, Ms. Oberman is a former Saturday Night Live staff writer whose tenure (1981-1985) overlapped most of Murphy's (1980-1984) when he skyrocketed to fame as a regular cast member on the show. Perhaps The Man represents an attempt to recapture some of that magic by remaking one of his best movies.

This movie is one of those cinematic fiascos it's fun to pick apart, starting with the ill-advised pairing of Samuel L. Jackson with Eugene Levy. These two exhibit so little chemistry it's almost as if they're appearing in two different films.

Oscar-nominated Jackson (Pulp Fiction) may be an accomplished dramatic actor, but apparently director Les Mayfield failed to inform him that this picture is a comedy. So, Jackson never tones down his intensity to allow for any levity.

The result is a performance laced with malicious, mean-spirited lines. There was no reason to laugh when he pauses during the sadistic torture of a black suspect to threaten further, I'm going to beat you like a runaway slave. Nor when he says, They ate him, when his co-star disappears in the company of some African-Americans, suggesting that they are cannibals.

Similarly, the ordinarily understated Levy, known for his deadpan delivery, fares no better here, with a tasteless script which has him repeatedly spouting uncharacteristic lines. He also indulges in endless bodily function humor, as the movie milks his character's battle with flatulence.

The story is set in Detroit although it was shot entirely in Canada. It unfolds as a slight variation on 48 Hours, opening with the murder of Special Agent Derrick Vann's (Jackson) partner.

Andy Fiddler (Levy), in town for a dental products convention, is mistaken for a mobster during a sting operation. Vann pressures Andy to assume the identity in order to help crack the case, and they embark on a series of escapades which were executed much better by Murphy and Nolte in 48 Hours.

Poor (0 stars). Rated PG-13 for profanity, crude dialogue, and violence. Running time: 84 minutes. Distributor: New Line Cinema.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.



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