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The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

Billy Bob Thornton , Frances McDormand , Joel Coen  |  R |  DVD
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (178 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, Michael Badalucco, James Gandolfini, Katherine Borowitz
  • Directors: Joel Coen
  • Writers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Producers: Ethan Coen
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Universal Studios
  • DVD Release Date: October 1, 2002
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (178 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00006CXGZ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,737 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Man Who Wasn't There" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

The Coen Brothers are back with a dark and twisted film noir unlike anything you've ever seen. Set in a small 1949 California town, this is the story of a seemingly simple barber, who turns to blackmail and revenge to escape his achingly dull life. But in the tradition of classic noir, nothing goes as planned and nothing is as it seems. And as the barber's plot unravels, the delicious surprises, stunning revelations and just plain strange occurrences will disturb and delight you long after the film has ended.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from the Coen Brothers May 23, 2002
Here's a film that falls into the category of "classic noir," all but perfectly presented by the Brothers who are, in many ways, reinventing the movie. With stunning black-and-white cinematography and splendid performances by Billy Bob Thornton and Frances McDormand (who, arguably, is one of the best actresses anywhere), the voiceover narrative of the unsmiling "hero" of the piece recounts the events leading up to his demise.
There is so much to like about this film: its faithful adherence to the exploration of small lives that become enlarged as a result of haphazard circumstance; its beautifully moody lighting and crisp images--where shadow has as much significance as light; and an overall evenness of tone that never for a moment hits a sour note.
Thornton, as the never-smiling barber with an acceptable life that is bereft of humor, of love, and of any viable friendship, gives a remarkably controlled performance that is perfectly matched by McDormand's barely contained appetite for love, for humor, for life, for something beyond the inertia of her marriage (to Thornton.) This is a film in which what goes unstated has as much power as what is; it also has what used to be referred to as a "sting in the tail" at the end.
Nothing can be anticipated in this film; the brothers exercise such great control over the material that even when the viewer thinks s/he knows what's coming, the surprise is there in the ironic ending.
A fine example of top-rate film-making, not to be missed.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Undeniably compelling March 6, 2002
By A Customer
After the crowd-pleasing knockabout comedy of the 30s-set "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" - a cheery, New Deal proposition which played out like "I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang" under the direction of the Keystone Kops - the new Coen brothers movie adopts the grimly fatalistic tone of a 50s noir thriller, its brooding shadows cast by both the Second World War and the resulting paranoias. If "O Brother" was the "before" photo of an America singing its way out of a Depression, then "The Man Who Wasn't There" is the snapshot labelled "after". It's cold and dark, and is certain to put off as many visitors to the Coens' world as "O Brother" attracted.
Thornton, his nicotine-stained voiceover containing enough tar to merit a Government health warning, is Ed Crane, a small-town barber forever sweeping up after those around him. The most passive of active smokers, Crane barely moves for himself until the one false move he makes to kill off his wife's lover and set off a chain of events leading to his own demise; it doesn't come as too much of a surprise when this hero goes out not in a hail of bullets, but sitting down to die.
One of the great joys of a Coen movie is that they cast, right down to the minor roles, people who can act to the extent that it's a pleasure to spend every moment of a longish film in the same room as them. (Even in the non-speaking roles, the brothers cast fascinating faces.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Previous reviewer is a Jackass. November 18, 2002
By A Customer
I am typically too lazy to write, however the previous reviewer stirred me enough to demand a response. If you're interested in fast moving color films with stereotyped performances whose sole purpose is entertainment, then stick with Spielberg. I find it amazing that someone with such a poor understanding of film dares comment on it.
If you have an interest in film as an expressive medium and as a reflection of an individual's (or brothers') creative aspirations, you will perhaps at least appreciate the film. Furthermore, the cinematography is absolutely phenomenal, among the best I have ever seen (I dare rank it along side 'Last Year At Marienbad' in this respect).
This is the best Coen Bros. and among the best releases in the past several years.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barberic issues.. January 13, 2004
I normally wind up with mixed emotions when it comes to films from the Coen brothers but I think they've got all their tricks in line with this one.
Those in the know with classic literature will easily notice that the "Man who wasn't..." is based on Camus' famed book "The stranger". The equations between this great book and the film are well balanced: the book is provoking and so is the film.

The plot is about a barber working in a small town. His life has all the tell-tale signs of a "nobody-special" man like him: his job isnt taking him anywhere, his marriage is a flat and boring non-relationship, his wife is double-timing him with one of his "friends", and he himself, well he doesn't seem to bother much about all that, or actually he doesn't seem to care about anything.
Life drags dully on, until the arrival of someone who tells the barber of his plan to hit the market with a new revolutionary business plan: dry cleaning. The whole scheme sounds attractive and has money-making potential written all over it but the missing element is the capital. The barber's mind goes on an interesting vortex of planning. He blackmails his well-off friend who has the affair with his wife for a nice bulky sum. That seems to work, the money is given, and then given on to the dry-cleaning guy and then, well, perhaps predictably, the wheels of the wagon start coming off in disturbing and untimely manner.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Coens write a knockout
A Man who does not quite fit into his modern day society, is driven by impulse and finds himself dug into a hole that just keeps getting deeper. Read more
Published 2 months ago by John Blankenship
5.0 out of 5 stars Coen Brothers' masterpiece
How can anyone create something like this? Two savvy guys, Joel and Ethan can! This film has all the elements of good comic.
Published 2 months ago by Marjatta Mentula
4.0 out of 5 stars ole billy bob
portrayed the barber well (much like himself, dry and drab). it was a good plot as well. i favor billy bob and like most of his movies so this one is just one more...
Published 2 months ago by u e chapa
5.0 out of 5 stars first-rate Coen Bros.
hey, if you're a Coen Bros. fan then this is something you must see if you missed it ... and if you're a fan of genre films, kinda quirky noir period stuff, you gotta see it
Published 3 months ago by Marc Olevin
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and Underrated Coen Film Noir
With Excellent performances by Billy Bob Thornton, James Gandolfini an Frances McDormand and an early Scarlet Johansson this is an underrated neo-noir masterpiece by the Coens... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Chris Moore
2.0 out of 5 stars Slow, black and white movie
Slow moving storyline, and really very boring. But since we started watching couldn't quit, needed to know what if anything was next. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Steve A. Chambers Sr.
1.0 out of 5 stars Complete waste of time.
Complete waste of time. Awful plot and dialogue. Coen brothers at their worst. Only redeeming factor is the black and white photography, which is great.
Published 5 months ago by Eddie
1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother
This movie was slow and boring. I had a hard time watching it because I wasn't invested in it in the least.
Published 5 months ago by Emily
5.0 out of 5 stars The man who wasn't "There" is an "in your face" presence.!!!
Billy Bob Thornton, Francis McDormand and Tony Shaloub are gangbusters in this very dark movie and look for Scarlet Joha nnson (very young).
Published 6 months ago by Marvin H.Berman
5.0 out of 5 stars The man who wasn't there
This is simply a work of art. A master piece. Everything is to applaud: the main characters and the not so main characters and even the remote characters (the appearance of the fat... Read more
Published 7 months ago by bonne lecture
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