Set in a sleepy Northern California town in the 1940s, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen's The Man Who Wasn't There stars Billy Bob Thornton as Ed Crane, a humble barber who suspects his hard-hearted and hard-drinking wife Doris (Frances McDormand) of having an affair with her boss (James Gandolfini). When a jocular stranger (Jon Polito) breezes into town hinting at the fortune to be made investing in an outlandish-sounding new invention called dry cleaning, Ed hatches a blackmail scheme he hopes will make him rich and get him some revenge at the same time. His plan goes horribly awry when he accidentally commits a murder for which Doris ends up being blamed, landing her in the slammer and Ed at the mercy of blowhard big-city lawyer Freddy Riedenschneider (Tony Shalhoub). Filmed in black-and-white by three-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins, The Man Who Wasn't There was inspired by the seedy crime novels of James M. Cain, putting a distinctly Coen brothers' spin on the film noir tradition. Though spiked with their characteristic humor, its moody atmosphere hearkens back to the darker moments of Blood Simple and Fargo -- a marked departure from the high-spirited slapstick of O Brother Where Art Thou. ~ Tom Vick, Rovi
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I loved this film! And not just because I was already a fan of the Coen Brothers and Billy Bob Thornton. The script was robust, the characters compelling, and the story evoked sympathy, suspense, mystery and intrigue. The "film noir" look of the film (black and white) was done to perfection. I rarely enjoy films in black and white, but in this case, it was exactly what the film called for: it added a sense of surrealism, which is where the main character lives.
Once more the Coen brothers show their vast creativity in taking a genre and giving it a twist. Done beautifully in black and white, wonderfully cast, the film shows what happens when desperate people with shallow lives tempt fate. (Also watch American Beauty for this theme.) Having just watched a few BW detective & mystery films of the '40's, this really hit the fun bone. RENT & ENJOY!