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, 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.
My fraternity experience was valuable in a social, confidence-building, test of skills kind of way, but I never checked an ATM balance after I joined and found my account had mysteriously added a few zeroes. I could’ve got a cherry ride out of it, too, if only I had joined the Skulls, a riff on the Yale secret society that was in the news at the time of the film’s release thanks to generations of Bush family membership. Big-budget schlock director Rob Cohen attempts to mine some cultural criticism out of the aristocratic odor wafting off these kinds of elite organizations, but he surrenders to the impulses he would fully give himself over to in Stealth and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Why make a compelling drama about class when a car chase set to late 90’s dirtbag rock will suffice?
We live in complicated times at this moment, but it’s easy to forget that our parents didn’t have it any easier, and arguably had it harder. They also lived through an unnecessary war, choking economic stagnation, and intranational conditions that erupted in violence. How film dealt with the 60’s and 70’s, specifically the Vietnam War, is an attempt at public therapy but it can’t help but fall into political poles. Some of the most memorable and acclaimed movies about Vietnam, like Apocalypse Now or Full Metal Jacket, focus on the insanity and the absurdity, and therefore split the right/left divisions. Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July work as axes to grind by their director, Oliver Stone, who remains justifiably angry at the government that deceitfully sent so many of its own citizens to kill and be killed. On the opposite end of the spectrum are films like the Rambo sequels and Hamburger Hill, works that feed into a victimization and a stabbed-in-the-back narrative that has sustained fascist movements throughout the 20th century and beyond. Hamburger Hill reeks of political messaging in the most blunt way imaginable, a film that laments the loss of life while reveling in blood and gore. Along with American Sniper, this might be the worst war film I’ve ever seen.
If there’s a kind of blockbuster film that drives me crazy, it’s the franchise originator that automatically assumes sequels are coming. These kinds of movies aren’t self-contained nuggets of story and character, but stall games that are mere first acts of a single story compared to first entries in a continuing saga. Green Lantern, Tom Cruise’s Mummy, The Last Airbender, that movie that cast John C. Reilly as a vampire mentor, all half-measures and aborted corporate wastes of time. This brings us to Alita: Battle Angel, a long-gestating James Cameron project/hentai masterwork. It gives snippets of backstory that will inevitably be filled in later, withholds a single glimpse of the giant city above the city where the action takes place, and casts Ed Norton just so he can wear futuristic goggles and smirk in a single scene, like the viewer is going to be enticed to come back to this franchise so they can watch him type menacingly. Movies often end on ellipses, but this whole outing is an ellipsis, a vehicle for CGI that could’ve moved through its thin plot in about 30 minutes.
For the cast of Dark Places, 2015 was a high water mark for several of their careers. Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult co-starred in perhaps the greatest action film ever made in Mad Max: Fury Road. Christina Hendricks was ending her run as Joan in the final season of Mad Men. Sean Bridgers, best known as Johnny Burns from Deadwood, co-starred in the best film on his resume in Room, though he memorably played an unconscionable dirtbag in it. Add in acclaimed young actors like Tye Sheridan and Chloe Moretz, plus the source material from Gillian Flynn one year after Gone Girl’s film adaptation and the pedigree of indie darling studio A24, and Dark Places should have been an easy layup for all involved. Instead, the leaden direction and writing from Gilles Paquet-Brenner takes these ingredients and turns them into one of those gray blobs from the Breath of the Wild game. One should never mix the prime steak of this cast with the assorted bag of monster parts that is Paquet-Brenner.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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