Ed Frankl


Swiss Army Man – first look review

Daniel Radcliffe quite literally rips it up in this fart-based bromantic comedy with Paul Dano.

In what is surely the most divisive of the star-driven vehicles at Sundance this year, Paul Dano harnesses the propellant power of Daniel Radcliffe’s farting corpse to jet ski off a desert island. From here this puerile masterpiece – which is essentially Castaway, if Wilson was a fart cushion shaped liked Daniel Radcliffe – only gets stranger.

A curious blend of fratboy humour, Michel Gondry-esque visuals and the scatological comedy stylings of Jonathan Swift, Swiss Army Man is the debut feature from music video directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. While the film’s sheer weirdness catches the eye, those wishing to jump into its off-colour humour will find a disarmingly rich bromance between two leads recklessly committed to their parts. The walkouts at the public screening here suggest that Swiss Army Man certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes – there’s just something decidedly Python-esque about the whole endeavour.

We’re introduced to Dano’s Hank in the process of hanging himself, only for his self-eulogising to be rudely interrupted by the explosive flatulence of Radcliffe’s corpse, which has washed up on the island. After they ride (in a wildly comic opening sequence) to the mainland, they remain just as lost and form an unlikely bond, especially after Radcliffe’s mangled body starts to speak. Radcliffe, who contorts his physique in the role, calls himself Manny – a modern-day Man Friday who utilises a set of special skills to keep Hank alive.

It might be Manny’s rigor mortis strength which allows him to karate-chop his way through trunks of wood, or store water in his mouth. His greatest (read: most bizarre) trick occurs when, having set eyes on a discarded copy Sports Illustrated, Manny’s erection rouses into a compass to point them home. And then there’s the farting – big fruity ones, high-pitched squealers; a dizzying array of trumps and toots that would make Mel Brooks proud.

As their bond grows, Dano re-explains life’s great pleasures and absurdities to a memory-blanked Manny, who asks appropriately bonkers questions. As the film reaches its existential peak, the ever-flatulent Manny observes of Hanks: “If you hide your farts from me, what other things could you be hiding?” “We’re all human,” continues Manny, “we all shit ourselves when we die.”

Published 25 Jan 2016

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