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Case Number 23208

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Puncture

Millennium Entertainment // 2011 // 100 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // January 27th, 2012

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All Rise...

When it comes to needles, Judge Franck Tabouring only knows how to do one thing: faint.

Editor's Note

Our review of Puncture (Blu-ray), published January 2nd, 2012, is also available.

The Charge

Sometimes the brightest light comes from the darkest places.

Opening Statement

Needle sticks still count among the most common and most dangerous accidents healthcare workers encounter on the job. One very effective way to reduce said punctures is the usage of safety syringes, which have become a popular alternative to the traditional glass syringes during the past decade. Still, the implementation of the safety needle proved to be quite a challenge for inventors and their supporters, and institutions such as massive hospital group purchasing organizations put up a nasty fight to protect their monopolistic interests. Based on true events, Adam and Mark Kassen's Puncture takes viewers back to the late '90s, focusing on the story of two lawyers and a manufacturer who stopped at nothing to highlight the need for hospitals to permanently adopt safety syringes in an effort to better protect their employees.

Facts of the Case

Leading the legal battle against the powerful industry executives opposing the production of safety needles is up-and-coming lawyer Mike Weiss (Chris Evans, Push), who along with his partner Paul Danziger (Mark Kassen, The Good Student) takes on a case involving an ER nurse who is stuck by a contaminated needle. She introduces them to Jeffrey Dancort (Marshall Bell, The Rum Diary), an eccentric inventor who is currently manufacturing his safety syringe in a small warehouse. Claiming he's being shut out of the market by the big purchasing organizations, he agrees to join Weiss and Danzinger on a quest to get his product into hospitals and hopefully help kick start new legislations requiring health care institutions to invest in the slightly more expensive safety needles.

The Evidence

While the legal aspect of the story keeps Puncture a compelling movie to follow, it's really the depth of Mike Weiss' character that quickly transforms this drama into an intense viewing experience. As a complete opposite to his serious and responsible partner Paul, Mike is out of control. Ambitious as he might be as a young, fearless lawyer trying to change the world, Mike is predominantly occupied fighting his own demons, namely, a fierce battle with drug addiction. He requires cocaine to stay sharp on the job just like a car requires fuel to keep moving, and his constant trips to restroom have nothing to do with a weak bladder. Though Mike plays a huge role in the safety needle case and clearly refuses to let the issue go unless they win, his dependency on the white powder slowly starts to mess with his personal life and promising career, threatening to destroy everything he worked so hard for up to this point.

Interestingly, what makes Puncture such an engaging film to watch is also what eventually prevents it from becoming a classic. You see, even though Mike Weiss is a fascinating character to watch, he also quickly starts to overshadow what is supposed to be the primary issue of the film: the legal battle to push for the mandatory use of safety syringes in hospitals nationwide. I'm not saying the plot abandons this aspect of the story at some point, but the problem is that Weiss's obstacles eventually take precedence over everything else. I'm not entirely sure this was the filmmakers' intention, but there is no doubt in my mind that the single reason this shift occurs is because of Chris Evans' terrific performance.

It goes without saying that Evans owns this movie. He dominates every scene he's in, using his acting skills to make viewers forget he's actually playing a role. Evans is so brilliant, he immediately cause us to root for him throughout, and this despite this irresponsible behavior and inability to get his drug problem under control. Evans is so good, we even start to hate on his far more reasonable and charming partner Paul for wanting to pull Mike back to reality. Playing Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger may have helped boost Evans' popularity even more, but at the end of the day, it's a performance like this one that earns him all the respect he needs as a fantastic actor.

The character of Mike Weiss and the job done by Evans really make is tough to talk about anything else as far as Puncture is concerned. Still, all I can say is that this little indie film deserved a much bigger exposure. The script, based on a story by the real Paul Danziger, generates a fair share of legal drama suspense, pitting Mike and Paul as underdog lawyers against powerful executives such as Nathaniel Price (a brilliant Brett Cullen), head of a giant hospital group purchasing organization who threatens to destroy Mike and Paul if they don't back off their case. The film also paints quite an intense portrait of the relationship between the two former college buddies and current partners, focusing on the difference of opinions they share when it comes to decide whether to invest everything they've got into a battle with a damaged healthcare industry. Chris Lopata's script makes room for a lot of compelling dialogue throughout.

The ending of Puncture feels a bit rushed, and the payoff may disappoint some viewers. That, along with Weiss' dominance as a character, are the only two issues preventing this film from going down as a memorable experience. Production values are solid, and Helge Gerull's cinematography adds a nice, gritty touch to the story. The DVD offers a surprisingly decent 2.40:1 widescreen presentation of the feature, packing a sharp picture quality with satisfying vibrance, strong colorsm and adequate black levels. In the audio department, the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround transfer also keeps its promises. That said, don't go look for special features anywhere; the disc has nothing to offer but a digital copy. I would have loved to hear an audio commentary, but I guess you can't win every time.

Closing Statement

A compelling issue, an entertaining script, and a handful of excellent acting performances mesh together very well in Puncture, which starts off as an intense legal drama and later transforms into a clever thriller following two committed lawyers approaching a breaking point as the pressure on their lives and careers starts to drive them apart. Puncture doesn't come without its problems, but as a feature debut for promising filmmakers, it definitely leaves a lasting mark. This one will stay with you for a while, guaranteed.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 89
Audio: 90
Extras: 0
Acting: 90
Story: 75
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: Millennium Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 2.40:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Subtitles:
• English (SDH)
• Spanish
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated R
Genres:
• Drama
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Digital Copy

Accomplices

• IMDb








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