Movie Review: Puncture

Mike Finkelstein wants to believe he has the courage to lose for what’s right.  Michael Weiss did.  Here is his review for “Puncture”.

PLOT: A drug-addicted lawyer (Chris Evans) and his partner (Mark Kassen) try to take on a negligent pharmaceutical company when the find out it will not allow the distribution of a prick-proof needle that could save millions around the world.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  We’ve all seen stories like this before: David vs. Goliath with corporations.  Most of the time, it’s versus big tobacco (RUNAWAY JURY, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING), or health care and pharmaceutical companies (JOHN Q).  This time, though, the protagonist isn’t just the little guy…he’s a little guy with a major problem.  And on top of that, it’s all true.  That is the ace up the sleeve of Adam and Mark Kassen’s new film, PUNCTURE.

Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) is a young Houston lawyer who owns a mom-and-pop personal injury law firm with his straight-laced college best friend.  He is also a functioning drug addict.  In his personal life, he is undependable (doesn’t show up to support his firm partner), irresponsible (his wife leaves him because of all his demons) and you name the drug, he smokes/snorts/shoots/ingests it.  But with all that baggage in his corner, he is a legal genius.  It doesn’t matter how high he is.  His mind is sharp, he is focused, and he is fixated on proving what he believes is right.  So when a woman contacts his firm to go after a negligent pharmaceutical company after she was pricked by a contaminated needle on the job, tearing down the big guys becomes his newest obsession.

Before anything, I have to note that Chris Evans plays Mike Weiss beautifully.  While he still may not be flexing his muscles when it comes to emotional range, the man had all the twitches of someone with a drug problem, and pretty much carried the entire movie.  He was distracted, yet focused, exhausted yet wired, and in two key scenes, he really showed the potential of what he has in his arsenal. To have a summer where you could play the perfect American (oh, Captain…) and be a disturbed junkie in an indie film is rare.  Evans did it, and I look forward to seeing him do much more (especially with range) in the future.

Now back to the film.

My biggest problem with legal thrillers is, no matter who is cast, it is very easy for them to fall into a basic structural hole.  PUNCTURE does this on many levels.  We have our small firm going up against the big corporations.  We have our best-friend partner, Paul  (Mark Kassen) begging the rogue lawyer to stop chasing the case.  We have the rogue lawyer/flawed hero (Chris Evans), who, despite his defects, will never give up because this case is about what’s right.  As a legal thriller standing on its own, there really isn’t anything too special going on.  It’s the same old story.

But as I said, PUNCTURE has a big ace up its sleeve.  It is based on a true story, and its goal is more than just entertainment.  This film has the courage to draw attention to a subject that’s a major issue in today’s society, and is a dedication to a very real man who tried to do everything in his power to make things right.  It may be dramatized, but to imagine that there really was a functioning drug addict named Michael Weiss who went through all of what he did for justice, and to know that his best friend wrote the first draft of this film for him…it adds that extra layer that is so desperately needed in an otherwise mediocre film.

It also didn’t help that Mark Kassen casted himself as the best friend.  Granted, he and his brother did a good job at directing, but I don’t think Kassen did Danzinger any justice.  He and Weiss were best friends since college, yet he seemed almost uncomfortable around him, like it was a stranger instead of an old friend.  There were no varying emotions as he watched Weiss spiral and lose all the firm’s money, and he basically came across as a one-dimensional winy wife figure.  All Paul was there for was to be the resistance to Mike, and I feel like he should have been a lot more.  But again, I’ve seen a lot worse.

While there may not be anything extraordinary happening in PUNCTURE, it is still a satisfactory legal thriller with an intriguing story, an up-and-coming actor going completely against type, and more than anything, a message.  Accidental needle pricking spreading disease is a major problem for nurses.  There really are safety syringes that could stop all accidental pricks of nurses in hospitals, and yet, unsafe needles are still used constantly in hospitals around the country and world.  This is not just some random fiction, but a true story with real people.  And hopefully, despite all its flaws, that little bit will help it rise above all the rest of its legal counterparts, and get into some homes and brains with it’s statement.

GRADE: B

Mike’s LIKES:

1) CHRIS EVANS: While I’m still not sold on his acting range just yet (still too down the middle for me), Evans impressed me in two key scenes.  He delivered with all the twitches and signs of an addict, giving a complete 180 from Steve Rogers.  You have to hand it to him.

2) ATTENTION TO A GOOD CAUSE: Needle pricking in hospitals and in 3rd world countries is a huge problem that many people would have never known about if it weren’t for this movie.  I commend the Kassen brothers and Paul Danziger for drawing attention to it.

3) DEMONS: It’s amazing how a man could have so many demons and hide them so well…

4) “THE COCAINE UNDER YOUR NOSE”: A great line and a very dramatic moment.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) MARK KASSAN: While he and his brother crafted a very good film, Kassan didn’t deliver for me in the acting department.  He made Danziger come off not as a best friend from college, but as a one-dimensional winy wife figure.  All Paul was there for was to be the resistance to Mike, and I feel like he should have been a lot more.  What happened to the guy who had the courage to write this screenplay in the first place about his best friend?  What happened to all that emotion and depth?

EXTRA FACTS:

1) The real Paul Danziger wrote the first draft of the script, himself.  After Mark and Adam Kassen agreed to take on the project, Chris Lopata was brought in to rewrite.

2) The film was selected by the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival to serve as one of the spotlight premiere features in the lineup.

 

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