THE MINUS MAN
The Minus Man is a serial killer film but one that is startling in the freshness of Hampton Fanchers approach. The film is not unakin to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) in both films, the title character is an enigmatic blank that draws the people around him into a web of random killings. Where Henry was a vacant force of undirected social aggression, Owen Wilsons killer could almost have been designed as the complete opposite an enigma that draws people in with his ease and friendliness. Indeed, Vanns killings do not seem to be motivated by the need to work out a roiling mass of hatred and violence within but instead come with the exact same ease and friendliness as the way he befriends everyone throughout the film.
Hampton Fanchers approach is extraordinarily laidback. The film is photographed with the attention to the slow, ordinariness of life that might in any other film have it pegged as a genteel Midwest drama about the nostalgia of growing up. The film comes so laidback it is almost in danger of fading away altogether. When Fancher does throw thriller elements in, they come so nonchalantly and so throwaway that one is astounded at the casualness with which they slip by this is a film that unless you pay attention to the minutiae of dialogue you are wont to miss something important. In any other film, the announcement of the body of Sheryl Crow being found and the police manhunt for the killer, the announcement of Mercedes Ruehls murder and Brian Coxs arrest would all be played as major dramatic jolts. Instead, Fancher underplays them with incredibly casual nonchalance and the result is often considerably more startling than if they had been dramatically hyped. Fancher also has a wonderfully poetic ear for dialogue and Owen Wilsons dreamy voiceovers explaining himself are haunting with a word I could place them all to rest, he says as he joins the hunt for the missing quarterback.
Hampton Fancher has yet to direct or write another film.
(Nominee for Best Adapted Screenplay at this sites Best of 1999 Awards).