Swiss Army Man Review

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The original title was called “Fart Man,” not kidding.

Hey kids, it’s time for Indie Art House Corner *cue children’s cheer track;* it’s where the budgets are low, the concepts are high, and nothing makes sense. For today’s installment, we have the special treat of a comedy; so at least we won’t be talked down to today. Nonetheless, comedy can be a tricky mistress where of you fail to get the audience laughing, you pretty much failed at everything. So let’s all chat about a guy hanging out with a corpse that won’t stop farting…

Nope not a joke, we got Paul Dano as Hank stranded on a deserted island with a noose around his neck being bored and lonely in his desperation. Right as he is about to end it all, he finds a corpse (belonging to Daniel Radcliffe) that apparently never stops farting. His flatulence is so strong, Hank is able to turn the cadaver into a makeshift jet ski and reach the mainland but far from civilization. Around this time, the corpse somehow starts talking to the lonely Hank, and, while initially disturbed, forms a friendship with the body to name it Manny. Strangely, Manny has other abilities besides his unstoppable gas, like his rigor mortis being strong enough to cut wood and shoot pellets while he also has erections that can guide him and Hank home…

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“Pass the blunt man, I’ve almost got the Second Act finished”

If that description turns you off, then there’s nothing for you here. But if it piqued your interest, you will be curious to hear that the movie surprisingly works for a solid portion (at least until the end, which I’ll get to later). The bizarre abilities of Manny the Cadaver make for some great physical comedy, especially as Hank has to manually position the corpse for the most optimal results. Though oddly, the humor in this movie comes more from Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe interacting with each other than any of the sight gags.

When Manny starts talking (somehow), the pair form an interesting buddy relationship as Hank attempts to trigger memories within Manny by exposing him to as much stimuli as possible. On top of that, Hank has to talk Manny like a child since apparently Manny doesn’t understand concepts like porn, home, loneliness, etc. Yet he seems to have a pretty impressive vocabulary for a dead guy and…yeah I’m not going to get into the mechanics a whole bunch. They seriously don’t matter and the focus us on the relationship between our two leads.

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A bromance to last the ages: a loser and a carcass

To the film’s credit, I enjoyed for the most part the way these two guys got along as Manny learned about the world with the excitedness of a toddler and Hank being forced to be confronted with his own flaws as a person. Because ultimately, Hank is a loser with a capital L. He has no friends, no relationship with his only living parent, no job, and is just wandering through life until he was stuck on a deserted island. So it was quite satisfying for him to be challenged by a stiff about how he wound up in this situation in the first place. And Paul Dano does a commendable job with the role.

Really, the one to look out for in the movie is Daniel Radcliffe, who is on his third (or fourth, I’m losing count) attempt to escape the specter of Harry Potter by taking a role so off the beaten path. To the guy’s credit, he’s got fantastic comedic timing and manages to inject as much emotion as his counterpart despite portraying a cadaver that can barely move on his own volition. The laughs in this comedy primarily belong to him with all the physical gags and best written jokes. The fact that he calls Hank out on his bullshit is also the icing on the cake for me.

I’ve long detested loner characters who shun the world without a hint of self-reflection because I see so many other people (particularly on the Internet) who adopt a similarly unhealthy mentality. I’ve long wished to enter certain films or literature like The Catcher in the Rye and slap these characters upside the head and tell them to stop being such a whiny punk. So seeing one such character be taken to task for his own faults through another who’s not even alive was the cream I could seriously enjoy this movie with…were it not for the ending.

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Let’s face it, an image like this cannot end well

I’m going to refrain from spoiling, but I was simply not a fan of the final 20 minutes of this very short film. I had so much fun up to that point in the tale only to be confronted with a resolution that’s…actually it doesn’t resolve anything. It just kind of hangs there with little to no explanation as to what exactly we witnessed. I won’t say if it’s a happy, sad or bittersweet ending, because I really have no idea what the hell they were on about.

Look you don’t have to explain every tiny detail in a plot as certain things can be left up to audience interpretation. But that only works if you’ve established a main theme over the course of the experience or have given enough clues to draw your own conclusions. This movie just didn’t know how to end, so picked a random thought out of a hat and went with that. It doesn’t fit at all with the previous 70 minute experience I was actually enjoying, so the ending not connecting comes across as a major downer for me.

Because everything else was on point, the cinematography was gorgeous along with clever set design in the forests of Washington State. It’s clear to me that the directors (collectively known as “Daniels” since they both have Daniel as their first name…see indie art house bullshit in The Neon Demon for another instance of this pompousness), had a lot of creativity when making this movie, but they must have exhausted everything when they were told they needed an ending. I really want to see more out of these guys, so I do want people to check their work out and hopefully next time we get a more cohesive film.

And hopefully next time, they won’t end up slapping together the ending we got in this movie after a protracted session with bongs. While the climax is a letdown, the movie has at the very least a fun, entertaining journey that made the trip worthwhile. There was some stellar writing for at least two-thirds of this film with two leads that were clearly in sync with each other. For those reasons, I’m giving this a low…

MATINEE

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