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Swiss Army Man Movie Review

Swiss Army Man: Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack cover art
Swiss Army Man is now available on home video. Read our review of the Blu-ray + Digital HD combo.

Swiss Army Man (2016) movie poster Swiss Army Man

Theatrical Release: June 24, 2016 / Running Time: 95 Minutes / Rating: R

Writers/Directors: Dan Kwan, Daniel Scheinert

Cast: Paul Dano (Hank Thompson), Daniel Radcliffe (Manny), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Sarah), Timothy Eulich (Preston), Richard Gross (Hank's Dad), Marika Casteel (Reporter), Andy Hull (Cameraman), Aaron Marshall (Police Officer), Antonia Ribero (Chrissy)

Buy Swiss Army Man from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD DVD + Digital Instant Video

For ten years, Daniel Radcliffe played a wizard, a job that gave him fame and fortune that few have ever known. Now that the Harry Potter series has ended, Radcliffe is free to play any role he likes,
be it a young man who sprouts devil horns in Horns or a farting corpse in Swiss Army Man.

Radcliffe is a magical sidekick to Paul Dano's stranded protagonist in Swiss Army Man, the offbeat feature debut of "Daniels", a pair of unrelated writers-directors who have previously collaborated on a number of shorts, music videos, and television episodes. At first glance, Swiss appears to be another castaway survival film, but it is not. Hank Thompson (Dano) is on the verge of hanging himself when he spots a man (Radcliffe) washed up onshore. The man he later comes to know as Manny is clearly dead and silent...but for the sounds of persistent flatulence.

Still, the gaunt, bearded and suicidal Hank, evidently alone on an island in the Pacific Ocean, takes Manny's arrival as a sign. He rides the corpse as a fart-propelled jet ski and carries him on his back as he looks for rescue or at least an animal to try to eat. After a night together, Hank discovers that Manny somehow functions as a water fountain, spouting out an abundance of clean, drinkable water from his mouth. Not long after, Manny starts talking to his new friend.

In "Swiss Army Man", Hank (Paul Dano) and Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) form an unusual friendship.

This relationship may recall that of Chuck Noland and Wilson the volleyball in Cast Away, but the conversation is two-sided, even if Manny is clearly dead and largely immobile. Hank tries to jog the memory of his new companion, a completely blank slate. He teaches him all about life, love, cheese puffs, poop, erections, masturbation, Netflix, birthday e-cards and the Jurassic Park theme. Manny's powers also help the two castaways hunt animals and escape the clutches of a bear.

A glimpse of Hank's nearly dead cell phone depicting his girlfriend Sarah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) prompts further discovery, memory exercises, and role-playing for the two young men. Manny takes quite a liking to this Sarah as played by Hank and one suspects this strange relationship is about to get even stranger.

Swiss Army Man is certainly different. It repeatedly subverts expectations, most remarkably in a climax that completely changes our perception of everything we've seen. It seems pretty clear that Manny is alive only in Hank's hallucinating mind, but their not-quite-Weekend at Bernie's dynamic compels as both a fast friendship of societal outsiders and a crash course on life.

Hank (Paul Dano) shows Manny (Daniel Radcliffe) what it's like to ride the bus in "Swiss Army Man."

Writers-directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert display vision and confidence you don't expect from first-timers, but they do have nearly ten years of experience in shorts. Their debut film is vaguely reminiscent but not at all derivative of a Spike Jonze filming of a Charlie Kaufman screenplay. Those are exciting comparisons to make but also frightening in having to live up to that kind of promise. It is too soon to say if these Daniels have wells of creativity or will simply use this as a springboard to more lucrative commercial work.

Despite having the established Dano onscreen for nearly the film's entirety and the world famous Radcliffe by his side for most of it, Swiss Army Man does seem defiantly uncommercial, which makes the decision of A24, a young studio without the most sterling of box office records,
to expand this to over 600 theaters nationwide after last week's strong opening in three theaters curious to say the least. Swiss Army Man seems better suited to critics than general moviegoers, but the former group's enthusiasm was somewhat measured, identifying the film as an odd work that many will not be able to appreciate.

Seeing this just a week after Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon made it easy for me to appreciate there was some substance to go along with the style here. From scenic sunny photography to an unusual a cappella score, Swiss Army Man is pleasing to the senses even when it is generating mixed reactions from your mind and heart. This is a film that seems both brilliant and insane in the same breath, a feature-length fart joke that also speaks to what it feels like being an awkward loner uncomfortable in adulthood. I remained conflicted and confused down to the divisive, unpredictable finale. If you value Jonze's films, even their often unsatisfying batshit final acts, then you at least ought to give Swiss Army Man a chance.

Buy Swiss Army Man from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + Digital HD / DVD + Digital / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
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Daniel Radcliffe: Horns Kill Your Darlings Victor Frankenstein Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Mary Elizabeth Winstead: 10 Cloverfield Lane Scott Pilgrim vs. the World A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III
The Kings of Summer Her Being John Malkovich Warm Bodies Safety Not Guaranteed

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Reviewed July 1, 2016.



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