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'The Man'

Given the state of digital effects, it seems entirely possible that the lame action-comedy "The Man," starring Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy, was assembled from bits cut from the actors' previous movies. That's not to imply they phoned in their performances; let's just say the roles are very familiar.

Levy plays Andy Fiddler, a nebbish of a dental supply salesman who travels from Wisconsin to Detroit for a convention. Jackson parodies Denzel Washington in "Training Day," as well as his own persona, playing Derrick Vann, a renegade ATF agent.

In a less than clever setup, Fiddler is mistaken for Vann by gunrunners — yes, as a matter of fact, they are incredibly stupid gunrunners — and then the "fun" ensues. Vann forces Fiddler to continue the charade, while Fiddler doles out familial advice to the divorced Vann. They squabble, they fight crime, they (almost) hug. It's basically a pathetic remake of the much funnier 1988 Martin Brest film, "Midnight Run," in which milquetoast mob accountant Charles Grodin is dragged along for the action-adventures of skip tracer Robert De Niro.

Although "The Man" is barely 80 minutes long, it plods under the direction of Les Mayfield, whose previous efforts — remakes of "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Flubber," plus "Encino Man," "Blue Streak" and "American Outlaws" — don't engender high expectations. The movie screeches to a halt numerous times simply to let Jackson and Levy go at it over the former's need to see his daughter's dance recital and the latter's inability to digest red meat without becoming grossly flatulent.

Screenwriters Jim Piddock, Margaret Oberman and Steve Carpenter break up the love fest with the occasional car chase or to allow Vann to pummel a suspect, but otherwise the script is entirely invested in the curriculum vitae of the two leads. The characters would barely exist on paper without Levy and Jackson to fill them out (albeit with 100% recycled material). In some ways, "The Man" plays like a sequel to some terrible movie that was mercifully destroyed before it was ever released.

'The Man'

MPAA rating: PG-13 for language, rude dialogue and some violence

Times guidelines: The flatulence is ruder than the dialogue.

A New Line Cinema release. Director Les Mayfield. Producer Rob Fried. Screenplay by Jim Piddock & Margaret Oberman and Steve Carpenter, Piddock & Oberman. Director of photography Adam Kane. Editor Jeffrey Wolf. Costume designer Delphine White. Music John Murphy. Production designer Carol Spier. Running time: 1 hour, 23 minutes.In general release.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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