"This is one screwed-up crew!" tuts Miguel Ferrer's Internal Affairs agent in buddy comedy The Man. Watching Samuel L Jackson's undercover cop share his Cadillac, and the screen, with Eugene Levy's garrulous goofball, you can only agree with him. But where throwing such contrasting characters together worked wonders in 48 Hours and Midnight Run, the leads don't have enough to work with to make Les Mayfield's workmanlike movie anything more than a rather repetitive, run-of-the-mill romp.
No sooner has mild-mannered dental supplies salesman Andy Fiddler (Levy) fetched up in Detroit than he is mistaken for an international arms dealer by smooth criminal Joey (Luke Goss). That makes him a necessary evil for hard-nosed Fed Derrick Vann (Jackson), who forces him to go on playing the part so he can bust Joey's cop-killing outfit.
"A CONSPICUOUSLY MEAN-SPIRITED AFFAIR"
Jackson and Levy look as if they're having a ball as they exchange quips, insults and barbed one-liners. Sadly, the audience are rarely let in on the joke in a conspicuously mean-spirited affair which takes a faintly sadistic pleasure in random acts of violence. ("I'm going to beat you like a runaway slave!" Jackson tells put-upon snitch Anthony Mackie, shortly before driving him into a wire fence and bashing him round the head with a phone book.) Even more unsettling is the film's mawkishly sentimental streak, typified by a dreadful scene where Vann tearfully bonds with his neglected daughter.
Not good, not bad, just deeply, depressingly average, The Man feels much longer than its slender 83 minutes.