Owen Gleiberman
November 16, 2001 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Man Who Wasn't There

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
116 minutes
Wide Release Date
10/31/01
performer
Frances McDormand, Billy Bob Thornton, Michael Badalucco, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, Scarlett Johansson, Jon Polito, Tony Shalhoub
director
Joel Coen
Producers
Working Title Films
distributor
USA Films
author
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
genre
Comedy, Mystery and Thriller

We gave it a B+

Billy Bob Thornton stars as a wormy, soft-spoken barber whose wife (Frances McDormand) is having an affair with her boss (James Gandolfini, in full brooding bully mode). Rendered in satiny black and white, virtually every image in The Man Who Wasn’t There has a stately composed dreaminess. The exception is Thornton’s face, which pierces the film with its incongruous, taunting challenge of dismay. The Coen brothers, taking off from the work of James M. Cain and other hard-boiled fictions, craft a plot that’s a sleazy morass of chicanery, blackmail, and murder.

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