Later this summer, Chris Evans will become a legitimate leading man with a little movie called Captain America: The First Avenger. However, before he goes all star-spangled he's headlining a wonderful independent film called Puncture, in which he plays a troubled but talented Texas personal injury lawyer fighting the good fight in a world gone greedy.
Directed by Mark (who co-stars as Paul Danziger) and Adam Kassen, this dramatization of a true story follows Mike Weiss (Evans), a functioning drug addict and crusading do-gooder who stumbles upon a major case-within-a-case while checking in with Vicky (Vinessa Shaw), a client and former nurse who contracted HIV after being accidentally pricked by a dirty needle on the job. She tells him and his partner Paul about her family friend Jeffrey Dancourt, who has developed and produced a "Safety Point" syringe that retracts and locks into place after being used so that it can't be repurposed or reused. The product could save millions of lives across the country, but the domineering Healthcare Group Purchasing Organizations consider it too costly for mass implementation. The fight to inform America's healthcare workers of the existence of Safety Point, and to get these secure syringes flowing through U.S. hospitals, is what Puncture is all about.
Well, that's almost what it's all about. Writer Chris Lopata balances the narrative by focusing much of his script on Weiss struggling with his inner demons, which are plentiful. A good lawyer who'd go to the grave fighting for the right cause, he's also a hard-partying, cocksure womanizer who'll do any drug on the table (an oxymoronic set of vices considering his commitment to his career and clients.) Whether this behavior is meant to turn the audience on to or off of the character is neither here nor there; in a film as bleak as Puncture often is, Evans is the comic relief, beating heart and magnetic MVP. His signature witty delivery and nonchalant body language contrast the overabundance of rigid legal lingo to make the movie more enjoyable for everyone (as will his abs for the female viewers, and the filmmakers show plenty of them.)
Of course, in most cases it takes more than just a good-looking star to carry a movie and Puncture doesn't solely rely on one man's performance. Kudos to Mark Kassen, who shines in front of and behind the camera as Mike's straight-laced best friend and business partner Paul, and his brother Adam for making a stinging statement about a corrupt institution in an entertaining fashion. The brothers don't show off too much in their feature debut; instead, they let their actors define the film while offering occasional technical assistance to heighten or visualize the drama. Sometimes they're a bit conspicuous, like when they splice scenes together using dialogue as a through line. Others instances, like over exposing lights while playing with the cameras focus to put us in Mike's trippy state of consciousness, are more subtle.
Though the directors have made a touching and relatable film, it's as much a victim of formula as you'd expect a legal drama to be. From pacing to plot points, you'll feel as though you're watching a cross between A Few Good Men, The Insider and Philadelphia as it makes its way toward an inevitable conclusion. Further, it delves into a few dead-end subplots (involving some shady figures who you're led to believe will help turn the picture in an unexpected direction) that are frustratingly out of place, much like the topic of the picture at this time. Still, these cons aren't enough to bury Puncture's quality as a whole. It's easily Evans' best performance to date and a hearty freshman effort from the Kassen Bros.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.