The Man Who Wasn't There

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Released 2001

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Movie Summary

Director:
Joel Coen
Released:
2001
Rating:
R

The Man Who Wasn't There is a dark film written by Ethan and Joel Cohen that follows a man who will do anything to escape his boring life. Ed Crane (Billy Bob Thornton) lives a humdrum life as a barber in Santa Rosa, California, suffering with poor health and no direction. His alcoholic wife, Doris (Frances McDormand), may be having an affair with his boss, Big Dave Brewster (James Gandolfini). Ed has nothing to look forward to but chain-smoking and getting by. Then one day Ed overhears Dave talking about an extra $10,000 that he is planning on using to invest in a new store. Ed realizes that a little anonymous blackmail and some ominous threats might help him get his hands on the money and on a new future. An unexpected murder gets pinned on Doris, and Ed has to decide whether he will protect his cheating, washed-up wife. The family races to the trial with no guarantee of winning, unless the murderer steps forward, and unless no one else gets murdered.

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Metacritic Score

  • 90

    The New York Times Dana Stevens

    The Coens have used the noir idiom to fashion a haunting, beautifully made movie that refers to nothing outside itself and that disperses like a vapor as soon as it's over.

  • 90

    Los Angeles Times Kenneth Turan

    You could say a lot about the very satisfying The Man Who Wasn't There, but what's for sure is that no one but the deadpan, dead-on Coen brothers could have turned it out.

  • 80

    Variety Todd McCarthy

    The Coen brothers tread into James M. Cain territory with The Man Who Wasn't There, but with less tasty results than either Cain or the Coens themselves at their best.

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    Themes

    Crime