THERE IS NOTHING worse than a serial killer who thinks he's smart but is actually a great bore. Similarly, there is nothing worse than a director who thinks he's smart but is actually a great bore. The Minus Man is guilty of both of these sins, and should be punished.

The film takes place in small-town USA, which, as David Lynch has already shown us, can be even weirder than big-town USA. You know, those small town folks may look normal, may be polite, and may enjoy things like high school football, church on Sunday, and picnics with "potatoe" salad and fried chicken, but underneath all the wholesomeness, these folks are insane. In fact, they are so insane that when a serial killer (here played by the genial Owen Wilson) moves to town, he looks no different than the rest of them. This freak blends perfectly into this small town. Makes you think, doesn't it? This, ladies and gentlemen, is as profound as The Minus Man gets.

After killing Sheryl Crow (which is not such a bad thing, considering she can barely act, let alone sing) at the opening of the movie, Wilson's drifter settles into this quaint coastal town where he preys on lonely townsfolk and seduces a vulnerable, small-town girl (played by a washed out and seemingly out-of-it Janeane Garofalo). He prides himself on being something of an existentialist: He is sensitive, complex, and cool, but never banal -- or so he thinks. This is one of many things in the movie that just doesn't work.

As I write this, I'm in Austria attending a conference on biotechnology and the arts, and as the green Danube flows beneath the window of my hotel room, I am still amazed by how badly this film turned out. Apparently its director, Hampton Fancher, wrote the screenplay for Blade Runner, a great film. Ach -- this should come as no surprise, really. Hollywood is riddled with such inconsistencies.

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