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Swiss Army Man (2016)

Lionsgate
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/4/2016

All Ratings out of

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/6/2016

Yes, I'm the person who is always complaining about the lack of original movies. Yes, I'm the one that will quickly point out what movie ideas are being plundered in another movie. Yes, 'tis I who doesn't hesitate to get on my soapbox and accuse Hollywood of making the same movie over and over. So, you would think that I would be overjoyed be an unique movie like Swiss Army Man. But, this may be the ultimate example of be careful what you wish for.

Hank (Paul Dano) is stranded on a small island, and he's at the end of his rope -- literally. As Swiss Army Man opens, Hank is about to hang himself. But, just as he's about to do it, he spots a person (Daniel Radcliffe) lying on the beach. Hank rushes to greet this stranger, only to find that it's a corpse. Despondent, Hank returns to his noose, when the corpse begins to fart...a lot. Taking this as a sign of life, Hank begins to address the corpse, whose flatulence propels it out into the water. Hank mounts the corpse like a Jet-Ski and rides it across the waves until they reach land. (Please don't take this as a spoiler, as all of this happens in the first few minutes of he film.) Disappointed that he once again appears to be in a deserted area, Hank takes the corpse, who he now calls Manny, with him, as he begins to explore. Much to Hank's surprise, Manny begins to speak, asking questions about life. Hank is also delighted to learn that this dead man has many practical uses. But, will this be enough for Hank to survive.

There is no doubt about it -- I've never seen a movie like Swiss Army Man before. The first few minutes, in which we see a desperate Hank about to kill himself, are certainly familiar. But, after that, things go in a different and unexpected direction -- Hank finds a dead body, that dead body begins to fart, and then Hank is riding the body like Aquaman riding on the backs of dolphin. Again, that's during the opening credits. From there, the movie continues to move in unexpected directions. The conversations between Hank and Manny start out as quite rudimentary, as Manny tries to remember who he is. But, they become more and more intimate, as Hank attempts to explain life and love to the dead man. This occurs while they explore the arboreal terrain.

The problem with Swiss Army Man is that is goes from different to unique to weird and then just keeps going. It’s as if filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, collectively known as Daniels, started with an interesting idea and decided that they wanted to make the weirdest movie ever. Granted, any movie which opens with a man riding a farting corpse has thrown reality out the window, but the movie gets more and more unbelievable as it goes along. Not only does Manny seem to have magical powers, but the things which Hank is able to do and build in the wilderness would baffle The Professor from Gilligan’s Island. And just when things have reached the peak of weirdness, the movie pulls the rug out from under us in the final act by challenging many of the things which have already happened.

There’s no doubt that Swiss Army Man is a challenging film. Hank and Manny are certainly intriguing characters, and their is decided wit to their conversations. And I can definitely see how some would think that these talks are “sweet”. But, the narrative also gets really hazy in these scenes and the film seems to be going for a “weird for the sake of being weird” approach. However, it’s the ending which makes Swiss Army Man an even more divisive movie. It’s the kind of conclusion which will no doubt spur conversation if you are watching it with a group, but these discussions will just go in a circle. I admire the fact that this movie is doing something very, very different, but it’s arthouse aspirations ultimately doom it, as a quirky, funny movie turns into a confused story that seemingly didn’t know how to end.

Swiss Army Man must have convinced Charlie Kaufman that he’d written a screenplay and then forgotten about it on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc carries an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 35 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image shows a nice amount of depth, most notably as we look through the forest. The level of detail is good as well. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The film’s score comes through very clearly and is loaded with detail. The surround sound and stereo effects work well here, most notably as we detect the various sounds from the forest. A few scenes deliver impressive subwoofer effects.

The Swiss Army Man Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director Daniel Kwan, Writer/Director Daniel Scheinert, Production Designer Jason Kisvarday, and Sound Mixer Brent Kiser. "Swiss Army Man: Behind the Scenes" (17 minutes) is a reel of on-set footage which shows various scenes being shot. We get some comments to the camera here, as well as narration explaining what we are seeing. "Making Manny" (3 minutes) takes us into Jason Hamer's studio to see how the Manny dummy was built. We also learn that it was taken around for promotional events. The Disc contains five DELETED SCENES which run about 9 minutes. There's really nothing new here and one plays more like a gag reel. "Q&A with Filmmakers" (67 minutes) has the Daniels and Kiser discussing the film in front of an audience at the Dolby Institute.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long