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THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE, 2001
Movie Reviews!

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THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE,  MOVIE POSTERTHE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE, 2001
Movie Reviews

Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

Cast: Billy Bob Thorton, James Gandolfini, Tony Shalhoub, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Michael Badalucco, and Jon Polito
Review by Jarred Thomas


SYNOPSIS:

A laconic, chain-smoking barber blackmails his wife's boss and lover for money to invest in dry cleaning, but his plan goes terribly wrong.

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REVIEW:

Joel and Ethan Coen are probably the most inventive writers/directors out there today. Their films are never the same in content, however, their style is distinct and their characters are eccentric yet compelling. ďThe Man who wasnít thereĒ is no different. A quiet yet contemplative film that blends noirish film style with a look similar to Hitchcock, The Man who wasnít there is one of the best movies from the Coen brothers.

Like many of the Coen brothersís films, the story centers on a killing. Billy Bob Thorton plays Ed Crane, a quiet barber whose only interest in life is cutting hair. Through a series of mishaps, Ed becomes involved in murder, a suicide, and prison, not in any particular order. His wife is Doris Crane (McDormand) who works at a department store and is having an affair with Big Dave (Gandolfini) her boss.

The Coen brothers take their inspiration from various films, all done by writer James M. Cain who uses a distinct style in his films and writing. Some of his popular pictures include; Double Indemnity, The Postman always rings Twice and Mildred Pierce. The film noir style plays an important role as it helps to convey the somber and dark oppressive tone of the movie.

The noir style complements the understated performance of not only Thorton but of the entire film as well. Itís slow paced, with little to no suspense which is uncommon in many of Hitchcockís film, and in many ways, this film feels like one the master of suspense would make. But thatís what distinguishes the Coen brothers from other filmmakers because while there are those who emulate the styles of past directors, it takes creativity to not only use that style but embellish with their own personal take.

The supporting cast does an excellent job with Tony Shalhoub who stands out the most in a performance that provides a much needed energy boost. The film until his arrival is constantly in a bleak sedated mood, and thatís not to say itís bad, but when Shalhoub arrives as a fast talking lawyer he elevates the scenes with his smooth talk and animated personality.

His character is similar in many ways to the character, Arthur Keats in the Postman Always Rings Twice, played to perfection by Hume Cronyn. He knows the situation and takes control; Shalhoub is the same here, although a bit more comical. His character fits the mold of what the Coen brothers were aiming for, taking inspiration from James M. Cain, and it shows with a satisfying end product.

Frances McDormand (wife of Joel), James Gandolfini and Scarlett Johansson all perform well in their roles. Thereís no question that even a great film with an excellent lead needs a strong supporting cast, and thatís exactly what the Coen brothers have here. ďThe Man who wasnít thereĒ is a taut psychological thriller that allows the story to slowly develop over time, and the slow pace is even reflected in Ed. The characters and story are both contemplative and yet the film is gripping, thrilling and compelling, a true product of the Coen brothersís creative brilliance.

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