The Man Who Wasn't There - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Man Who Wasn't There Reviews

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½ December 30, 2016
"Life has dealt me some bum cards. Or maybe I just haven't played 'em right, I don't know."
A genre that has affected many areas of the film industry is film noir. Despite this influence, there have been few films in recent years that are complete néo noir crime film. One of the few films that have is The Man Who Wasn't There. Directed by master filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen, the film chronicles the story of a soft-spoken barber whose attempts to improve his life and the lives of those he cares about, which are sometimes morally ambiguous, continuously create destruction and add to his feelings of invisibility. Like all of the Coen Brothers' films, the film is directed beautifully and, with master cinematographer Roger Deakins behind the camera, is shot beautifully. Both of these combine to fit into the néo noir crime genre entirely actually. From the shadows to the smoking to the black and white coloring to even the opening credits, the film feels exactly like the film noir films of the 1940s like The Maltese Falcon. It is incredible how much the tone and atmosphere fit the genre perfectly. The writing of the movie is also engaging and thought provoking. The reading is also interesting how the plot meanders without a real central conflict. The film focuses on the main character and how he tries to solve his problems. The film focuses on seemingly small crimes that spiral out of control. It seems as though any likely problem that could occur does happen or any time when a solution seems achievable, something goes wrong. This makes the plot and script unpredictable. Seemingly small details slowly develop into larger plot points as the film progresses. Also, the film's plot and characters raise interesting questions on life and the search for meaning within it. The main character of the movie, Ed Crane, is played extremely well by Billy Bob Thornton. He is restrained in his performance. However, this underacting fits the genre and the shy and unassuming character that he portrays. His voiceover is both engaging and informative. It is interesting how his character is given no catharsis or emotional outburst that most characters of this genre are given. The rest of the cast, even the smaller bit part characters, each fit their roles, but they are given so little time to develop their character or their story. For instance, Scarlett Johanson provides the sweet, cute, and lovable girl that Crane develops a friendship with. Similarly, the late great James Gandolfini able to transform from likable and friendly businessman to dark and insane attacker in a single scene. Unfortunately, not all of the performers give good performances. Coen Brothers regular Frances McDormand and her character are typically bland and uninteresting. Her character could have been performed by anyone with the same results. Also, despite some significant elements, there are problems with the story as well. Despite the way, the minor details of the story come together, the plot itself could have developed more or given a more detailed response to each event. The pacing of the film is also slow at times and almost boring because of the lengthy gaps in between major events or plot points. Also, the messages or ideas of the film, while interesting and entertaining, sometimes come across as preachy or pessimistic. The Man Who Wasn't There is an incredibly well-made film with superb directing, writing, cinematography, and an excellent performance by Billy Bob Thornton. While it has a few problems, it exemplifies the film noir genre in an entertaining fashion. I would definitely recommend it to fans of the Coen Brothers or classic film noir crime movies.
½ November 24, 2016
Not the most exciting noir tribute but still good.
½ October 2, 2016
A slow, haunted film that is both emotionless but permeated with harrowing sadness, The Man Who Wasn't There is a distressing, but often beautiful work of moving film noir by the Coen Brothers.
July 19, 2016
One of the Coen bros' more mediocre, immediately forgettable efforts.
½ May 14, 2016
Very nice homage to the noir genre. And don't get that "flaw" about the film being emotionally distant. It's suppossed to be like this, it completely fits the genre and that particular movie. Nice job from Coens.
Super Reviewer
May 10, 2016
One of the best commentaries I've seen on the murky condition of what can be deemed as modern man, Thornton (a revelation) plays a guy who is so removed from society, from even himself, that he is, in effect, only a spectator in his very own life. (But what's the point of that? What does that accomplish?) Everyone does a bang-up job, and this is eye opening filmmaking at it's best. Perhaps the best by the Coen Bros.
½ April 22, 2016
Though none of Coen brother's movies look the same, its easy to say when you see one. Another crime drama from them shot in black and white with a film-noir style featuring their muse Frances McDormand. Though its a crime thriller, it hardly keeps us guessing except in one scene just about half-time, I thought they were taking the 'From Dusk till Dawn' route and I was hoping them to as the extended 4th Act becomes pointless and predictable.

Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) is a sad, unsatisfied and chain smoking middle aged man - barber by profession. Married to Doris (Frances McDormand) who is having an affair with her boss Big Dave (James Gandolfini). When a wacky looking Creighton (Jon Polito) walks in for a haircut bragging about an opportunity in dry cleaning business, Ed sees a way out of his stagnated life. When he decides to resort to blackmail, things do not turn out the way he anticipates.

Each actor reserves a different acting style when working with the Coen brothers, they become more eccentric, active and alive. But Thorton's character has lesser facial expressions than Arnie's T2 role. Jon Polito looked like a replacement to their usual choice John Goodman for such roles as he tries to act and talk him. This movie serves more like an experimentation vehicle for Coen Brothers for exploring genres since the script didn't look like it had any potential to be greater than what it turned out to be. Scarlett Johansson plays a small role and oozes sexiness and confidence she is attributed with today.

Not their best but still so fun to watch
February 20, 2016
Felt like it could have been much better. Still a really good movie though.
January 24, 2016
As far as Coen Brothers movies go, this one is right in the middle for me. Nowhere near their best, but far from their worst too. Worth seeing, but fairly forgettable too.
½ January 1, 2016
Poetic! An essential film from the masters.
December 20, 2015
The Coen Brother's The Man Who Wasn't There is a great tribute to the old style of filmmaking. Billy Bob Thornton acted in a low-key way, which surprisingly worked for me and didn't find the performance boring. The story is really good, and I actually do t mind last 20 minutes, even if it didn't seem to go nowhere until it went back to the main plot. The characters are great, and I was interested in the film, for the most part at least. It's stylish, it's very well-written, and it's shotted really well. There are some good humor in this which is expected from a Coen Brothers film. The rest of the cast are really good, and the score by Carter Burwell is really good. The Man Who Wasn't There isn't one of the Coen Brother's best which general public seem to agree on for the most part, but it's still a very entertaining film that I'm glad that I saw it even with its very slow pacing.
½ November 23, 2015
De los mejores filmes de los hermanos Coen, con una adaptacion precisa de los filmes noir, además de soundtrack y actuaciones sublimes. La narración en off de Thornton es genial y estilizada.
Super Reviewer
August 4, 2015
One of the Coen brothers' very best works . . . a melancholic homage to noir that pits a hapless anti-hero against a world he does not understand. I don't think any other film articulates my personal worldview so clearly.
August 3, 2015
Very good modern film noir from the Coen brothers with some trademark Coen twists.
½ July 5, 2015
one of the coens finest
June 10, 2015
If I were writing a noir-inspired story about a movie that schemed to pull off the perfect audience heist but screwed it up so badly that it wound up in jail, The Man Who Wasn't There would be the central character. While it is clear that the Cohen brothers planned the visual style of the movie very carefully - the contrast between light and shadow, the fashion of the late 40s, the ever-present cigarette smoke, even the use of black and white instead of color - it is also clear that they failed to remember the most important lesson of film noir: it must have a cracking good story with sharp dialogue. Sadly, neither is present. The dialogue is clumsy at best (e.g., "He was gone like the nips at Nagasaki" - ugh, that is bad), and the story, while beginning with a good premise about a blackmail scheme gone awry, eventually wanders off into a plodding character study that nearly bored me to tears. I think the worst aspect of this movie, however, was the ending (and the UFOs; we mustn't forget the UFOs...and I am not kidding). Unlike traditional film noir where the bad guy gets his cosmic comeuppance, and the audience gets a mediation on how poor choices destroy lives, in this flick the bad guy proudly informs us that he regrets nothing (after causing multiple deaths, no less!), and the audience is seemingly expected to agree. Yeah, in many ways this is a movie that seems right at home in the solipsistic 21st Century. While neo-noir aficionados might enjoy this flick, lovers of classic film noir are best advised to stay away from this modernist take on the genre.
June 9, 2015
Any Coen film is worth watching and this film has style and fine performances but less than a welcoming grin....too far removed.
June 8, 2015
Unbelievable story with a brave conclusion.
April 17, 2015
An interesting yet not that exciting hommage to the film noir.
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