Reel Discoveries: Swiss Army Man

A young man is shipwrecked on a small deserted island. After a few weeks, with no rescue in sight, his loneliness drives him to commit suicide. At the last moment, his life is reprieved when a stranger is washed up on shore. Joyously running out to meet him, he is despondent to discover that his new-found friend is not only dead, but full of gases resulting in loud and obnoxious farts. Giving up, the young man returns to his suicide preparations when he discovers that the farts are propelling the dead body through the water. A few moments later the castaway is astride the corpse, excitedly jet-skiing his way back to the mainland. So begins the quirky comedy brought to us by the team known as DANIELS (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), Swiss Army Man.

Paul Dano (Looper, Prisoners) plays Hank, a lost soul whose life has been so mundane that he doesn’t even enjoy it passing before his eyes when he’s trying to kill himself. His new companion and lifeboat is a dead man named Manny, played by Daniel Radcliffe (and if I have to tell you what he’s known for, take your head out of your ass and go sit in the corner for an hour). Manny is a corpse with a unique skill set which constantly helps Hank to go on as he treks his way through a large forest trying to find civilization before he dies. Manny retains clean rain water and regurgitates it when needed for thirst. Put a small rock in Manny’s mouth and give him the Heimlich and he becames an effective rifle for small game. Raise Manny’s arm over his head and he can chop wood, which is easily ignited with one of Manny’s farts. Get him aroused, and Manny’s erection points the way to civilization (I won’t discuss the specifics of that one).

But this is more than just a raunchy comedy. Raunchy it is, but there is a deeper element here in that it is one of the most original and offbeat buddy films I’ve ever seen. Manny begins to talk, and though Hank occasionally questions his own sanity he is so lonely for human contact that he accepts this bizarre fact and starts trying to help Manny uncover those memories of what it is to be human: to laugh, to cry, to love. These scenes become the core of the movie, and rescue it from being just a raunchy 97-minute fart joke.

I’ve never particularly liked or disliked Paul Dano as an actor, but this is a film where he is up to the material and does it well. As for Daniel Radcliffe, it is easy to see why he calls Manny the “favorite part I’ve played so far”. Radcliffe turns in a phenomenal performance as Manny, proving once again that he is a far cry from the teenaged wizard we watched growing up.

This movie is not going to be to everyone’s liking. Personally, I loved this movie and give it 4.5 out of 5 positrons (a half positron is subtracted for some over-the-top raunchiness). If you don’t object to some humor that is decidedly in bad taste, then I think you — like me — will consider this film a rare gem.

Next time on Reel Discoveries — Kinte hurled the gauntlet and I took up the challenge. That reminds me, Kinte, I’ve already contracted the hit men so watch your back, dude. It’s Godzilla vs Megalon, and it is a prime example of why I so rarely take requests. You ‘ll see what I mean — next time on Reel Discoveries.

Directed by
  • Daniel Scheinert
  • Daniel Kwan
Produced by
  • Eval Rimmon
  • Lauren Mann
  • Lawrence Inglee
  • Jonathan Wang
  • Miranda Bailey
  • Amanda Marshall
Written by
  • Daniel Scheinert
  • Daniel Kwan
Starring
Music by
Cinematography Larkin Seiple
Edited by Matthew Hannam
Production
companies
  • Tadmor
  • Astrakan Films AB
  • Cold Iron Pictures
  • Blackbird Films
  • Prettybird
Distributed by A24
Release date
Running time
97 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3 million[2]
Box office $5.1 million[3]

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