Set in 1949, Billy Bob Thornton plays Ed Crane, a quiet, chain-smoking barber who seems content to let life pass him. A visit from a traveling salesman changes all that, as he offers Ed the chance to invest in a dry cleaning business. Needing to raise serious capital, Ed decides to anonymously blackmail his wife's lover, Big Dave (James Gandolfini), the owner of a department store. However, events soon spiral out of control, leaving Ed, his wife and her lover at the mercy of fate.
It's difficult to think of any other filmmakers who have consistently enthralled audiences like Ethan and Joel Cohen throughout their nine films to date. However, they take this excellence to new levels with the enthralling film noir tribute, The Man Who Wasn't There. Although it's very much a moral drama, the script doesn't shy away from the humourous asides, which have characterised the brothers' work. It's within this complex but richly rewarding script that the actors do some of their finest work to date, most notably Thornton who is staggering in his portrayal of the laconic hairdresser.