CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
Disappointing ‘Puncture’ With Chris Evans Doesn’t Stick
CHICAGO – There’s something about “Puncture” that feels like it should work. It’s easy to see why someone thought this true tale of a troubled man who realizes he has been presented with immense responsibility would make an engaging film, but the fact is that having an interesting true story doesn’t always translate to riveting drama. Despite the interesting facts of the legal and personal drama at its core, “Puncture” is surprisingly flat (no pun intended) and, even with a very-good lead performance, isn’t memorable enough to recommend.
Chris Evans does career-best work as Mike Weiss, a small-town attorney who just started a practice with his good buddy Paul Danziger (Mark Kassen). Their little firm struggles to make ends meet by taking horrible personal injury cases and occasionally getting tossed an interesting potential settlement from a buddy (Jesse L. Martin) at a major firm. Paul has a pregnant wife who he is concerned about supporting but Mike has more significant personal problems like intense hardcore drug addiction and infidelity that leads to his wife pulling a gun on him at a party and leaving him.
Photo credit: Millennium Pictures
Weiss and Danziger stumble into the case of their lives when they meet a sick nurse named Vicky (Vinessa Shaw) and a medical supplier named Jeffrey Dancort (Marshall Bell). Vicky was stuck by a contaminated needle a few years back and she’s going to die because of it. Like so many nurses do every year due to needle sticks that could be prevented through the use of an amazing new needle designed by Dancort. The one-time-use needle retracts after usage and would not only save the lives of thousands of health care professionals but revolutionize third-world countries where needle re-usage is a major cause of the spread of disease. The problem is that some very powerful people make a lot of money on the current needle design and they don’t want people to know about the new technology.
Can Mike prove that major companies have kept a safety precaution under wraps for the almighty dollar while people died? Can he keep his own personal demons at bay while he goes through a case that would not only change his life but possibly thousands of others? Can the little guy tackle big business if the little guy is a junkie? It’s clearly material that’s rich for an engaging, inspirational drama, but “Puncture” can’t find its tone and writer Chris Lopata and directors Adam & Mark Kassen never give the piece the energy it needs to connect.
Photo credit: Millennium Pictures
Evans is quite good here, finding the fractures in his Captain America personality, however the film never gives his character time to grow and breathe. It’s a surprisingly short movie that focuses heavily on the case at the expense of its characters. The scenes in which Mike clearly begins to question his own worth and whether or not he can take this case as far as it needs to go are the best in the film. But I’m not sure the movie gets to the core of who Mike Weiss was in real life. Did he really keep his drug addiction secret from his best friend and legal partner? What drove him both in his addiction and his quest for justice? Evans adds a lot of weight to the role but he’s required to do more heavy lifting than he would have with a better script and tighter direction. And it doesn’t help that he’s let down by a co-star/co-director in Kassen, who just seems uncomfortable and miscast in front of the camera.
“Puncture” is a disappointment not only because it wastes a strong performance from an actor who deserves credit for thinking outside of his mainstream box but because the story of Mike Weiss and Jeffrey Dancort is an interesting, important one. It’s one of those films that makes the viewer want to read or watch more about the true story behind it not only because they’re interested in it but because they’re unsatisfied with the dramatic interpretation they just witnessed.