Daniel Radcliffe’s post-Potter career has been a brilliant example of how to do it. While he obviously has a comfort blanket lined with money to take the pressure off his shoulders, you still have to step back and admire a man who is willing to take the risks he has, which leads us to Swiss Army Man in which he plays a farting corpse.
And not just a farting corpse either, he’s your one man Swiss army knife of a corpse (hence the title). Lost in the woods? His erect penis will guide you home. Need a drink of water? It will gush freely from his mouth. Stuck on a remote island? The gas mentioned above will allow you to ride him like a jet ski to safety. All of which is only the start of his talents and they all come in handy for Paul Dano’s Hank, who is on the brink of suicide after been marooned on one of those remote islands. I’m sure you can guess what comes next.
Which is all completely ridiculous, in fact, it leaves ridiculous behind and instead descends into total insanity. Upon reaching the mainland Radcliffe’s corpse begins to come to life and Hank names him Manny. The two of them then set up a little utopia for themselves where Hank teaches Manny about the world that his death has caused him to forget.
It turns this film into a total two-hander. It’s not until the final ten minutes that any other character makes an appearance and it doesn’t matter because Dano and Radcliffe are on top form. Radcliffe spends most of the film as an entirely inanimate corpse, able to move his lips slightly but beyond that do nothing, and it’s an outstanding feat of physical acting. The two of them combined nail the comedy of this film and the way that they manipulate Radcliffe’s body is perfectly done.
However, it has to be said that stretching this film to 90 odd minutes is a bit of a stretch. The childish humour is initially funny (flatulence and erections for the win), but it does lose its way a bit come the end. There are several moments where it feels like it is maybe about to finish, but they stomp on for another ten-fifteen minutes, and the whole thing does begin to drag. This would have been an outstanding short film rather than a merely good feature.
Despite that, Swiss Army Man is a film that makes you stand up and take notice. This is the debut full-length film from Daniel Schienert and Dan Kwan, and they take a premise that shouldn’t work and somehow pull something out of it. It’s also yet another slice of proof that Daniel Radcliffe might be able to do anything.