A suicidal man comes across a dead body with a surprising number of life-saving abilities.
Directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan
Starring Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe
Review by Jon Kissel
Swiss Army Man
Swiss Army Man, better known by its Sundance moniker as the 'farty boner corpse movie,' does certainly contain all those things. The marooned Hank (Paul Dano) finds Manny's (Daniel Radcliffe) dead body (check) on a beach and he soon discovers all the magical abilities this corpse is capable of. His farts (check) have the ability to both amuse and propel and ignite, there's a deep well of water inside him, and his erection (check) serves as a divining rod/compass. Manny eventually learns to talk, and, having no memory of life before his 'death,' it falls to Hank to teach him about the world and how people interact with each other, though Hank himself is generally unskilled at relationships.
Directing and writing team Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan fill their deeply weird but always interesting film with meta touches and whimsical flourishes, and it's continuously amusing to find out about Manny's next skill. They successfully turn their survivalist, magical realist story into something deeper, as Hank’s explanation of all of society’s arbitrary, distancing rules makes it sound as absurd as a movie nicknamed Farty Boner Corpse. The movie’s greatest trick might be its big cathartic moment of character growth as the owning up to a fart, though one wonders if the directors started from there and worked backwards. That ending, however, does that Birdman thing I hate, where a movie that contained imagined magic is revealed in the final frames to have contained real magic. Dano is doing what he does best as a talkative and unreliable protagonist, most reminiscent of his role in Ruby Sparks, while Radcliffe is a comedic revelation, putting on a clipped, blurting cadence to go with his dead-eyed stare. His physical mastery of the role makes Manny the best performance that Radcliffe’s ever put on. The complete package is a film that impresses and entertains throughout, at least before its back-to-earth ending with the ellipses required of these kind of indie head scratchers. B
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