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The Man Who Wasn't There (2002)

A movie directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

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I Wish I wasn't....There.

  • Feb 4, 2011

Bar none the Coen's remain my favorite film makers but the 2000's didn't start out for them that well.

O Brother, was loved by some and panned by others, there was this film and later came Intolerable Cruelty which some saw as too commercial and The Ladykillers for being too weak for some including myself.

The Man Who Wasn't There isn't a "bad" movie but it could have been filmed on ambien instead of film cause it can be sleep inducing.  Seriously, NOTHING happens in this movie.  Then Man Who Wasn't There Indeed.

The film is a noiresque tale of a middle class nobody named Ed Crane works as a barber and for a moment gets suckered into a get rich quick scheme by a smooth talker.  Having lost his money, he gets involved with his wife and her boss at a department store and attempts blackmail which also goes bad.  From there we see lawyers and piano prodigies and.........boredom.   This movie for me just wasn't interesting.

I can always appreciate the Coens for doing new things and trying to make original films but holy hell did they take a story about a man's life and suck all fun out of it and maybe thats why the movie is in black and white other then establishing mood.  I don't want to criticize Roger Deakins they're cinematographer who does as good a job as he has done on other Coen works, but have you ever watched a movie more lifeless?  Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Shaloub and James Gandolfini are all in this movie and are some of the last guys I would ever think of as being boring, but.........yeah this movie found a way.  

The movie looks good, the movie is cast well and I didn't notice any big issues in the story other then it was sleep inducing.  I can tolerate a slower movie over a loud and obnoxious one in most cases.  The Man Who Wasn't There could have used some volume a few shades above "Saturday Afternoon at a Cemetery."

I Wish I wasn't....There.

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February 13, 2011
Great review as always, need to re-watch this one.
February 05, 2011
Been awhile since I saw this last. Didn't know it was by the Coens. Thanks, John!
February 05, 2011
Even though I panned Ladykillers, it was at least fun. All I need to see now is Intolerable Cruelty and Hudsucker Proxy. The Coen's had an interview with EW not too long ago where the topic of True Grit being they're first "Four Quadrant movie" in that it could appeal to the most people. They then joked how many quadrants "A Serious Man had" if any at all.
More The Man Who Wasn't There reviews
review by . March 06, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
was a great noir debut about misunderstanding identity.  Raising Arizona was a screwball comedy about stealing an identity.  Miller's Crossing was a deep gangster movie about discovering identity ("Nobody knows anybody. Not that well")  Barton Fink was a Hollywood insiders movie about understanding your own identity.  The Hudsucker Proxy was a fast-talking dialogue driven 1930s comedy about keeping your identity in the face of all odds against.  Fargo …
Quick Tip by . October 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
One of the worst movies I've ever seen, made even worse by the fact that the Coen Brothers did it (yea they make sucky movies but their good ones are brilliant). Tony Shaloob's character partly explains Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle at some point in the movie--I wanted to be uncertain about it, but no--it is just simply wretched.
Quick Tip by . November 06, 2009
Extremely low key Coen Brother movie about a barber who attempts to get rich quick but should have stayed in his obscure and boring routine.
review by . April 17, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Though not a passionate Coen brothers' films fan, I think THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE is more than just another one of their quirky films. This beautifully photographed film unfolds a story so unique that it justifies all the directorial techniques it receives. Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, and James Gandolfini are visually and technically marvelous. The method of telling this dark tale of revengeful moves in black and white accompanied by piano sonatas of Beethoven is a delight. The twists …
review by . February 20, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Billy Bob! Frances McDormand     Cons: nothing     The Bottom Line: Bottom line is that this film is a WINNER.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot. I live in such a googy small town that this was playing as a "Special Events" - the regular movie houses wouldn't touch it! Looking back - I think it was a perfect choice.      The latest by the Cohen Brothers is not a dissapointment …
About the reviewer
John Nelson ()
Ranked #8
Born in Wausau Wisconsin. Move at an early age to Ventura California and lived for 8 years. Growing up in a big city landscape didn't prepare me for my next move: Archbold Ohio with a population of … more
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About this movie


For all of its late-1940s cold war paranoia, pulp fiction dialogue, and frenzied greed, Joel and Ethan Coen'sThe Man Who Wasn't Thereis their most cool and collected film sinceBlood Simple. An unassuming barber with a scheming wife (Frances McDormand) and a serious smoking habit, Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) is an onlooker to his own life, a ghostly presence set against a silver-toned film noir backdrop. Only when he decides to alter his fate by blackmailing his wife's lover (James Gandolfini) in order to invest with a traveling salesman (Jon Polito) touting the wave of the future--dry cleaning--do we begin to hear the full extent of Ed's understated, existential lament. As his lawyer (Tony Shalhoub) says in Ed's defense at his eventual trial for murder, "He is modern man." Thornton's deadpan eloquence and cinematographer Roger Deakins's precision lighting offer the perfect counterbalance to the requisite one-liners, plot twists, and false endings that have come to characterize recent Coen brothers films. Almost in spite of the obsessive cultural references (flying saucers, Nabokov'sLolita, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle), Ed Crane steps neatly from the fray as one of cinema's most memorably disenchanted characters.--Fionn Meade

The Coen brothers' THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE is a brilliantly photographed black-and-white absurdist noir set in Santa Rosa, California, in 1949. Ed Crane (the outstanding Billy Bob ...
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Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Genre: Crime, Drama
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
DVD Release Date: April 16, 2002
Runtime: 116 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios
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