The Minus Man (1999)

minus man poster 1999 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Intentionally downplayed

Doesn't quite hit the mark on what it is attempting to do

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Minus Man

Studio:  Artisan Entertainment

Genre(s):  Drama/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  September 24, 1999 (Sundance Film Festival)/October 8, 1999 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R


I prefer cruising down Santa Monica Blvd.

Vann Siegert (Owen Wilson) is a loner and a wanderer…he is also a serial killer.  Picking his victims at random and slipping them poison, Vann moves from town to town and kills when the urge takes him.  Arriving in a small town, Vann movies in with Doug and Jane Durwin (Brian Cox and Mercedes Ruehl) and starts a new life as a temporary mail carrier.  With a budding relationship with his coworker Ferrin (Janeane Garofalo), Vann questions if he can have a new life with the urge lurking in the head and the fear of being tracking down by his phantom detectives (Dwight Yoakam and Dennis Haysbert).  The desire to kill cannot be stopped and the more Vann kills the more dangerous it gets.


I’d watch a cop drama with these two

Directed by Hampton Fancher, The Minus Man is based on the 1991 novel by Lew McCreary.  The small picture received relatively strong reviews after a tour of festivals and art houses films.

I actually read The Minus Man before seeing the picture.  I had heard about the film and sought out the book and then finally managed to see the movie when it made it to video.   I had enjoyed the book and found it pretty layered, and knew it was going to be a tough adaptation.  For the most part, the movie succeeds in a lot of the plot points, but a very dense internal narrative by the main character is hard to get across.


A normal (messed up) couple

The story is fairly simple.  A man drifts into town and starts killing.  The difference is that the story is from the killer’s perspective and it does a lot to try to humanize him while not turning him into a good guy or giving a lengthy backstory to explain why he is the way he is.  It is a bit refreshing in that sense, but tons of voice-over monologues don’t go far enough to make him feel very rounded.

Owen Wilson is a bit too goofy for the role and the people he encounters are also a bit off.  It feels like this is what the writers were going for but it doesn’t always feel natural or work.  It is extremely hard to read everyone Wilson encounters so you don’t know if you are getting his perspective on them or how they are in reality.  Both Brian Cox and Mercedes Ruehl are interesting but underdeveloped and Dwight Yoakam and Dennis Haysbert could be used better.  The normally sarcastic Janeane Garofalo seems toned down for her role and the movie also features an acting role for Sheryl Crow.


So is a psycho killer the worst guy you dated?

The movie (like the story) is very pedestrian.  With a great location, you kind of expect them to use it more, but the movie is supposed to be very low key, and it succeeds in being a rather everyday and Wilson is the every man killer.

The Minus Man is an art house serial killer movie.  It isn’t graphic, it isn’t exciting or tense (for the most part).  It is simply a more “real” killer story.  With that type of hook, it means that everyone isn’t going to love it, and even I’m a bit on the fence about it.  The movie has great potential and almost is a good movie…it just doesn’t quite make it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response