Released: 2011
Director: Adam Kassen, Mark Kassen
Starring: Chris Evans, Mark Kassen

A worthy, but not very interesting, change of direction

There’s something about Hollywood stars who have made their names in blockbuster popcorn films. Despite the adoration, money and massive success that has come their way they appear to be ashamed of the films they have appeared in, they want to turn their backs on the budgets and show that they are serious “actors” by appearing in low budget dramas. Kirsten Stewart was decent in Welcome to the Rileys and in Puncture Chris Evans is clearly trying to put Johnny Storm and Captain America behind him with his role as a drug-addicted lawyer fighting the interests of health care providers who have been putting money before safety.

The film starts with ER nurse Vicky being pricked by a contaminated needle – fast forward several months and we meet drug-addled lawyer Mike Weiss (Evans) who likes to rehearse his courtroom speeches in front of incredulous pimps and prostitutes who can’t quite believe the cynical actions of big business and vested interests of government departments. Mike and his law partner Paul Danziger (played by co-director Mark Kassen) meet Vicky who is now seriously ill. Her employers have provided healthcare but she is more concerned with the fact that her friend has invented a safe needle which hospitals are not buying even though it would help to prevent 800,000 accidental needle sticks in the US each year. What follows is a David vs Goliath struggle as the minnows take on healthcare corporations, the struggle is nothing however compared to Weiss’s addiction to narcotics which threatens to derail the process.

Puncture isn’t a bad film and I can see why Evans thought this was a good role to break-out from his clean-cut superhero image with. A drug addict fighting the system has “credibility” written all over it. Unfortunately it doesn’t have “interesting” written all over it as well. I know it is based on a true story and that Mike Weiss was a troubled young man whose heart was in the right place but by focusing on Mike and his downward spiral we lost the more interesting story of why the healthcare lobby was so averse to purchasing the safe needle. By placing Mike’s story at the heart of the film the political narrative is badly lost and nothing is really explained well. Perhaps an American audience with a greater cultural understanding of privatised healthcare provision would pick on some of the nuances better than I did, but I found myself asking several times what was going on.

The central performance by Chris Evans is decent but it’s hard to develop a relationship with a character who is hell-bent on self-destruction and refuses to acknowledge a problem or take any of the help offered to him. The rest of the performances are workmanlike. A better actor than Kassen could have brought pathos, anger and sadness to Danziger, sadly he is portrayed as bland and one-dimensional. None of the supporting cast give performances that would rate Puncture as any more than a decent TV movie.

Chris Evans has got a good thing going as Captain America, between Cap’s story and the inevitable Avengers sequels he has got a good 5-7 years of his career planned out. Will he be typecast? Maybe. Will the Marvel films offer him the opportunity to flex his acting muscles? Probably not – but surely it’s better to make excellent popcorn movies that appeal to mass audiences than dull but worthy independents that only excite the people who make them?

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