mon 24/06/2024

Swiss Army Man | reviews, news & interviews

Swiss Army Man

Swiss Army Man

Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano go too far in self-indulgent indie two-hander

Playing dead: Daniel Radcliffe in 'Swiss Army Man'

Daniel Radcliffe has worked hard to put distance between himself and The Boy Who Lived. Onstage he’s been buck naked and learned to sing and tap. On screen he’s been the young Ginsberg, Dr Frankenstein’s sidekick and last week in Imperium went undercover to infiltrate American neo-Nazis. He now goes the extra thespian mile in Swiss Army Man, in which he plays a flatulent reanimated corpse with an erectile auto-function.

The scenario is this. Two young men are washed up on a beach, apparently after some sort of boat wreck. One of them is Hank (a heavily bearded Paul Dano), who ascertains that the other body, belonging to Radcliffe, is lifeless. He resolves to hang himself, only for the windy rumbles to bestir in the dead man’s midriff. He’s still dead, but the disposal of the corpse gives Hank something to live for. He sets off into the interior, but not before ecstatically jetskiing up and down the beach, using the corpse’s horsepower farts as a means of propulsion.

It’s at this point that we jump the shark and enter cultish indie terrain, never to be offered the merest glimmer of an exit. The corpse, lugged into the woods, soon opens its eyes and starts to speak – of course it does – and mutters that its name is Manny. As in mannequin, probably. Because his memory is wiped clean Hank must teach him the rudiments of stuff  – life, death, masturbation, the etiquette of farting, the movies of Steven Spielberg. Hanks acts it all out manically with props fashioned from deadwood and trash while Manny looks on, an interested if stiff student. Very stiff whenever he catches sight of Sports Illustrated.Swiss Army ManThe narrative, if that’s the word, narrows in on a backstory involving a girl on a bus whom Hank conjures up in drag (pictured above). Manny believes she’s a messenger from his own past to which he is eager to return, only for stuff to be revealed later when the “plot” breaks out of the woods and makes an eleventh-hour trip back to suburban Normalsville.

This is the debut feature of Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, co-directing their own script. They must be a very persuasive pair because Dano and Radcliffe, on hearing the pitch, could have played safe and backed warily out of the meeting. There’s plenty of energy on offer and some visual flair, and everyone's heart seems to be in the right place. But it’s pretty clear why Dano threw his hat in. He’s built up a reputation for usually being the best thing in whatever he’s in through detailed commitment to truth. Here, playing a loser who questions the basis of evolutionary reality, he exudes pop-eyed, goofball glee as he tramples manically all over his CV. Radcliffe is surprisingly good as a corpse.

The script, chasing the logic of its own anything-goes ethos, sometimes stops to apologise. “This is crazy!” “I can’t believe we’re talking about this!” Then barrels on anyway. This wind-powered zomboid bromance ends up taking advantage of itself. Boring. 

Overleaf: watch the trailer to Swiss Army Man

Dano and Radcliffe, on hearing the pitch, could have played safe and backed warily out of the meeting


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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No mention about the music? It plays a huge part in the film, and I doubt there are many films where the whole soundtrack is just acapella. Hell, one of the soundtrack's writers has a part in the film! No talk of the meaning of the film? You obviously couldn't get your head enough out of your arse to realise that it's not just a farting corpse, but about so much more.

I agree.

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