32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
they don't make 'em like they used to... or do they?,
This review is from: The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) [DVD] (DVD)
Having not really seen any Coen Brothers films previously I was really not too sure what to expect of this neo-noir vehicle of theirs. However, ten minutes into viewing it I realised that this was somehow different to any other film I'd seen before from recent years. I thought it would be a pretentious and manipulative film merely ripping off the old classics under the pretence of homage and art but it is far from that. This beautifully staged, costumed and atmospheric film in icy black and white has a gripping, intelligent plot and a central character who seems so vacuous and unemotional and bored in his suburban life that things turn fantastically dark at a quick, clean pace.
The plot begins reasonably simple (as do the characters), a blackmail attempt on Billy Bob Thornton's part to finance an investment into dry cleaning. However, things soon become very complex and demanding when murder, incorrect indictment and other such things inundate the picture. But still Thornton's character drifts his way through his troubles and offers occasionally inspiring lines of wisdom and the blandly imparted but true philosophies of his life. His boredom and his alienation makes him a dislikeable but trustworthy narrator for such a dark film.
'The man who wasn't there' is a very artful, quietly knowing film, lined with the malignant, full of twists, at times surreal and funny and a film that moves at its own pace to its grim and moving conclusion. It has the basis of a simple film about dissatisfaction from the forties and it investigates the problems with 'surburban boredom' and the darker and more murderous side of resolving this. A very clever film.