We all know that I was a pretty big Harry Potter fan back in my day and I have a great deal of love for the film series that goes with it. However, I can’t say I’ve ever been that convinced by Daniel Radcliffe as an actor. He always seemed kind of shitty especially when he came face-to-face with some of Britain’s finest actors. Harry has always been one of the worst parts of the whole series because he’s such a whiny fuck and Daniel hardly did anything to make him any better. So when the series ended I didn’t exactly follow his post-Potter career with any real gusto. I mean the guy really doesn’t come across well in interviews and seemed to pick any old piece of shit to appear in. I just couldn’t be bothered. Until this year with the release of a film that sounded so fucking odd I couldn’t say no. Of course, that didn’t get me to the cinema in any real amount of time but I finally watched the film that could easily have been an episode of The Mighty Boosh or something.
Swiss Army Man is the kind of film that defies summary because it’s so fucking absurd you can’t really do it justice. The basic narrative follows Hank (Paul Dano), a young man who managed to get washed up on an island in the middle of the ocean. Bored and alone, Hank turns to suicide to end his suffering. Just before he ends it all Hank is distracted when he notices a dead body (Daniel Radcliffe) on the shore. Thanks to a handy flatulence problem, Hank is able to ride the cadaver to freedom and washes up back on dry land. On his journey home Hank discovers many other advantages to having a dead best friend when the corpse, whom he christens Manny, slowly comes back to life and reveals a handful of useful traits.
So, yeah, Swiss Army Man is a fucking weird film that is based around an incredibly silly premise. It is built around childish humour and jokes about farting, masturbation, and erections. It won’t be for everyone but it is certainly worth a watch. If nothing else the film is an excellent two-hander between Dano and Radcliffe. The weird relationship that forms between Hank and Manny gives so many feels it beats any typical rom-com. It’s the bromance to beat all bromances that have gone before. I mean how many bros can you use as a water fountain, a form of transport, and a handy gun? The film also builds on themes of mortality, social norms and love to name but a few. It’s a film that is much deeper than the sheer number of fart jokes would suggest.
However, there is also a sense that the film is trying to be deeper than it manages. You’d hardly believe a film that has a running gag about an energetic erection could be called pretentious but it kind of is. I may just be fucking cynical but the eagerness with which this film tries to be so carefree makes it feel anything but. It’s got a lot of energy and puts a lot of faith in its underlying message but it just lacks substance. It’s like those fucking awful Dumbledore quotes people stick on their living room walls that sound inspiring and stuff but are actually just really shallow. Which would be fine if it was handled in a light-hearted way but Swiss Army Man is so self-indulgent it’s almost cringey.
Still, it is a fun film that, in an age of remakes, reboots and unoriginality, really helps restore your faith in Hollywood. Whatever you might think about the juvenile jokes and insane premise it certainly stands out. It’s also very beautifully put together and filmed. The stupidity of the story is almost at odds with the stylish manner in which its presented. The films also goes some way to change my mind about Daniel Radcliffe. He throws himself into the role like a fucking trooper and puts up with a load of shitty scenarios. He also shows a lot of skill in playing the reanimated corpse. It’s never over-played or silly and, if this can be possible, feels real. It’s the two leads that really keep this craziness going and make this the emotional journey it ended up being. It’s divided opinion to some extent but I’d watch it again.