In the healthcare debate, Judge Gordon Sullivan always has a good word for leeches.
Our review of Puncture, published January 27th, 2012, is also available.
Sometimes the brightest light comes from the darkest places.
The current debates about healthcare boil down to two basic positions. There are those who think that healthcare can only thrive and continue to innovate if it's allowed to live in a free market full of competition and choice. Then, there are those who think that a free market will drive up the price of services so that not everyone will have access to basic healthcare quality. Both sides have excellent points; there are upsides and downsides to both positions. However, a film like Puncture—based on a true story—attempts to show the downside of putting money on an equal footing with providing patient care. It's a by-the-numbers courtroom drama, but a solid performance by Chris Evans and the true-story material make it fairly compelling.
Michael Weiss (Chris Evans, Fantastic Four) is a heroin and cocaine addict. He's also one hell of a lawyer, which is why his partner Paul (Mark Kassen, Trigger Happy) puts up with him. One day a woman walks into their office with the story of a nurse (Vinessa Shaw, Eyes Wide Shut) who contracted AIDS after being accidently stuck with a contaminated needle. Accidents happen, so she might not have a case—but as Michael and Paul dig deeper they find that the medical industry knows this is a problem and isn't above smearing the inventor of a safer alternative to avoid the cost of litigation.
This is the stuff that made John Grisham famous: get a plucky lawyer to face down a bigger foe, preferably a conspiratorial one. The David-and-Goliath story worked for Erin Brockovich, so by now it's a perfectly established formula. The fact that this story is based on true events, and touches on the ever-frightening threat of AIDS is just icing on the cake. The fact that Mike is an addict trying to keep it together gives the plot a modern, House, M.D.-like twist, but at its core this is a coming-of-age story where the plucky young lawyer has to decide to man up and do the right thing no matter the cost.
On that score, the film succeeds. Very few people watch films like this to be surprised; the comfort is in the familiar story well told. In that sense, the film hits all the right beats at all the right times. We know enough about Michael's struggles to make us care, the nurse Vicky is sympathetic, and the bad guys are bad enough that we want to see them crushed.
Chris Evans has mostly been seen in superhero movies or blockbuster-style action flicks at this point in his career. Puncture is really his first time taking a dramatic lead, and he is the heart of this film. He's given a pretty stock character to play—the young lawyer who must step up to the plate—but he handles the role with a depth that is surprising given his run of superhero roles. He the standout in the film, but the other actors generally pull their own weight. Michael Biehn makes an interesting appearance as an insider dishing dirt on the medical industry, while Michael Kassen holds his own as the staid partner of the firm.
Puncture (Blu-ray) is aided by the strong audio/visual presentation. The film has a gritty, handheld aesthetic, and this 2.40:1 AVC-encoded transfer captures that look perfectly. The level of detail suffers because of the grittiness, but black levels are deep and consistent. Overall it's a solid transfer that does the source material justice. The Dolby TrueHD track is similar—the film doesn't have a broad or sweeping soundscape, instead relying on its dialogue to carry things. That dialogue comes through clean and clear in the center channel, with the surrounds only coming out a bit in scenes involving crowds.
I admit the true story behind Puncture is compelling, and the film raises some important issues that need to be addressed by anyone interested in healthcare reform. However, there's not much here that raises this film above any other typical courtroom drama. The acting is fine, the writing okay, and the direction solid, but it never rises to become something I would actively recommend.
For a film based on such a compelling case and that raises so many real-world issue (like the AIDS epidemic in Africa) it's a crying shame this disc doesn't have any supplements at all. The back of the disc promises "bonus materials," but I couldn't find them on my copy. Interviews with the actual people involved in the case would have been great, or even just a making-of featurette or two. Any hopes of that have been…well, punctured.
Puncture is a by-the-numbers courtroom drama about the evils of the medical industry. Aside from proving that Chris Evans can carry a film without donning tights, the film doesn't have much new to offer. Those with a taste for these kind of flicks will enjoy this one, but for the average movie watcher, it's not something to seek out unless you need a Chris Evans fix.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Millennium Entertainment
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