ScreenCritics Adam takes a look at one of the more odd films to emerge during 2016 – Daniel Radcliffe’s ‘Swiss Army Man’.
We all love a bit of weird. It spices up our life and gives us something to talk about, weird is just plain fun. As you might be able to tell from my reviews, I’ve always liked weird stuff and I’ll always appreciate an earnest attempt at it, even when it fails. I’ve sat through some incredibly boring films so when you get a bad weird film, I thank it because at least it didn’t bore me for two hours and gave me something to write about the next day. And now we’ve got one of the weirdest films of the year with the release of Swiss Army Man but is it any good?
Hank (Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine) appears to be trapped on a deserted island and is about to kill himself. However his hope his lifted when a man (Daniel Radcliffe, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) washes up on shore but it turns out he is dead. However the corpse of the man, who he names Manny, turns out to have special powers which may yet save his life.
Ok, so as you can tell, this film is off the wall bizarre. Which isn’t surprising really, this is the first feature film of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert who are best known for the Turn down For What music video which is just in your face with how weird it is. Well worth watching though. And just a few days ago I was finding solace in The Legend of Tarzan being an original take on an old story, but here waiting for me was a completely new story that isn’t a homage to anything else, but its own brand new thing and really only something that could be made in this era of indie film making. This means this is a delightful treat from out of the norm.
And with this film being incredibly weird, it goes in hand that it’d be very funny as well. I thought the joke that the corpse farts would get old very quickly, and it sort of does, but the film is smart enough to change it up later on in the film and twist old jokes as when I found out those farts could turn the Daniel Radcliffe corpse into a makeshift jet ski, I corpsed. And no I’m not apologizing for that pun. And the film has a very good script which Hank getting some good lines in which makes this a journey you want to stay on with rather than turning the film off.
So we’ve got originality, we’ve got humor, how about a bit of heart too? Because while the film brings you in farting corpse, the real story here is one of unrequited love with a woman named Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 10 Cloverfield Lane). Unfortunately I can’t go too much into this subplot because doing so would spoil the emotional center of the film which for one this good I cannot do, but it’s touching as well as a little bit creepy and it’s certainly the thing you’ll remember most about the film. And considering there’s a corpse of Daniel Radcliffe in this film, that’s rather impressive.
And that may actually be the strongest aspect of this film, it’s not just a silly film about a farting corpse. It is so much more without trying to be much more, it just is. Just briefly researching this film, I found an active fan base discussing the themes of the movie and what it actually meant. Is Hank depressed and this his way of dealing with it? Are the events of this film real or is it all in Hank’s addled head? Was he on a deserted island after all? This film is fostering intelligent discussion between fans because it leaves the right sized clues, not small enough to be ignored but not big enough to be considered plot holes.
However my biggest issue with this film and this is probably down to my personal tastes rather than a mistake on behalf of the film makers but this film is irritatingly dressed up in that indie fashion and that’s very apparent in the soundtrack. It’s very hard to describe in a text review, though I’m sure a much better writer could, but the music felt like it was trying to be like every other indie film with its ‘unique’ takes on pre-existing songs. When everything else about this is so original, having something which feels like every other film of its genre is distracting and irritating.
Not so long ago I described The Neon Demon as being rather divisive and having just as much fans as it does haters. I can see Swiss Army Man doing the same thing as like The Neon Demon, and the only thing it has in similarity to that film, as it too proudly wears its weirdness on its chest like a badge. Unlike Nicolas Winding Refn’s bizarre horror, I however ended up rather liking Swiss Army Man because there’s more of a heart to it as well as being rather amusing. And it’s also probably the only film where you can disguise your farts and say its the film, so it has that going for it.