Swiss Army Man
dir-scr Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
prd Miranda Bailey, Lawrence Inglee, Lauren Mann, Amanda Marshall, Eyal Rimmon, Jonathan Wang
with Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Antonia Ribero, Timothy Eulich, Richard Gross, Marika Casteel, Andy Hull, Jessica Harbeck, Aaron Marshall, Shane Carruth
release US 24.Jun.16, UK 30.Sep.16
16/US 1h37
Swiss Army Man
Life after life: Dano and Radcliffe

dano radcliffe winstead
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Swiss Army Man One of those films that leaves you wondering what you've just seen, this oddball black comedy mixes wacky slapstick, dark emotion and magical surrealism. It's deeply, sometimes bewilderingly quirky, but has a disarming charm to it that wins us over, thanks to committed, full-on performances from Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe. It's also packed with big ideas and resonant themes.

The story opens on a tiny desert island as Hank (Dano) is interrupted from his suicide attempt by the appearance of a body (Radcliffe) on the the beach. The corpse's groans make it sound like he's saying his name is Manny, while his farts propel the duo across the sea to the mainland like a jet-ski. There, Manny gains consciousness but not mobility, as Hank sets about recreating Manny's former life in the dense woods. The focus of Manny's scattered memories is Karen (Winstead). Or maybe she's a woman Hank has long admired from afar.

Basically, what we're watching is Hank's unhinged fantastical version of his forest life. The title refers to the way he uses Manny for a variety of tasks like some sort of multi-tool. And as they bond, both of them reveal unexpected aspects of their personalities, becoming a rather ridiculous but inseparable duo. All of this is very silly, with lengthy discussions about poop and masturbation that somehow never quite tip over into gross-out territory; instead, it's like one young teen trying to help another cope with the advent of puberty.

Both Dano and Radcliffe are excellent, finding strong camaraderie as they reveal impeccable comical timing. As the adventure progresses, Dano shifts from a frazzled castaway into a cheerful but eerily disturbed young man. Radcliffe also has surprising cheeky energy in his physically strapped role, keeping the audience giggling with his, yes, deadpan delivery. The chemistry between them is difficult to describe: warm and awkward, charming and flatly incoherent.

Filmmakers Kwan and Scheinert, working as "Daniels", remain committed to their madcap approach right through the movie, which doesn't have a standard plot trajectory, so it sometimes begins to feel both repetitive and aimless. But the Michel Gondry-like visuals are beautifully dreamy, and there is a strongly pointed, revelatory conclusion that refuses to talk down to the audience. Indeed, the final kick is surprisingly intense, and it leaves plenty of space for the film to hit us right where we live.

cert 15 themes, language, innuendo 25.Aug.16

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