by / October 5th, 2016 /

Swiss Army Man

Review by on October 5th, 2016

 1/5 Rating

Director: Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan
Cast: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliff, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Certificate: Club
Running Time: 97 minutes
Release Date: September 30th

Just as he’s about to kill himself, an overly-morose Paul Dano spots a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) freshly washed up on the beach. He soon discovers that he can harness the power of this corpse to help him achieve his ends. These uses principally revolve around farting but also involve the use of his erection as a compass. As Dano comes to rely more on the corpse, the more it seems to come back to life. It’s an unlikely buddy film and one that is much better than the Weekend at Bernies set-up would suggest.

The success at Sundance, coupled with the presence of Harry Potter’s bottom-burps mean that this film has been receiving more attention than it otherwise would. Radcliffe is therefore to be congratulated, using his considerable heft with financiers to get projects like this off the ground. It’s certainly unlike anything else you’ll see this year and the whole thing is very well executed. That said, it will leave a slight bad taste in the mouth in terms of its long-term appeal. As fresh and original as the central concept is, the story it is used to tell is overly trodden. Put simply, did we really need another film about a young white guy who finds it difficult to talk to a woman he obsesses over? As I said though, it’s a minor complaint with the film, we cannot expect a film as small as this to address and fix Hollywood’s gender problem.

This the first prominent feature film from the directing duo “Daniels”, made-up of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. They’re principally known for their work in music videos and this background does come through in the end product. There are some brilliantly realised scenes and set-pieces that fit into a narrative that doesn’t quite add up to the sum of its parts. Evidently, there is quite a strong influence from Michel Gondry in their work, only the ludicrous here isn’t carried through by their personality, something Gondry is brilliant at weaving into his best work. The farting and erection jokes carry an American-esque hint of frat-boy, whereas one suspects in Gondry’s hands a penis-compass would have been almost fit for the Hallmark channel.

Yet, they do manage to approach those levels, not least because they are assisted in two stellar performances from Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. Dano continues to do a fine line in weirdo, something I fear his looks have reduced him to for the rest of his acting career. Radcliffe, on the other hand, is continuing to do a very good job of pointing out just how versatile an actor he is. He might not realise it yet but it doesn’t matter how many of these off-beat roles he’s takes, he’ll never wash the Potter off. Let’s just hope he never does and continues to get films like this made. It’s certainly more refreshing than seeing the likes of Johnny Depp doing yet another Pirates of the Caribbean film.

In all, this is as original a concept as you’re going to get (from American cinema anyway) for some time. The new economic models at the studios are seeing to that. Its initial hit is refreshing, funny and surprisingly touching with some outlandish concepts handled with care and respect. With long-term reflection one will begin to pine for the film that could have been. If they were just willing to mine the ore of their concept, to have really dug it out and seen where they could have gone with it. A very promising start to their feature film careers, I await their next move with baited breath.