Either just before or just after the time that Chris Evans was part of the production that became the Captain America movie, he was appearing in a smaller film dealing with serious subject material, playing an eccentric character. Captain America has come and gone on video and now Evans' drama Puncture finally comes to video for people to see just what kind of actor he may be without pyrotechnics and gunfire as accompaniment.
Based on a true story, Evans plays Michael Weiss, a gifted lawyer living in Houston. Weiss was a heroin and cocaine addict, yet his addiction was hidden to most because he would continue to function at a high level to clients and in front of judges. His lawyer partner and longtime friend Paul Danziger (Mark Kassen, The Good Student, who co-directed the film with his brother Adam) is one of the few people who is aware of his addiction but tolerates it in order to utilize Weiss' talents in the courtroom. The small law firm the two have created and maintained receives some business from Darryl King (Jesse L. Martin, Rent), and one day they receive a case where a nurse named Vicky (Vinessa Shaw, 40 Days and 40 Nights) has contracted AIDS through an accidental stick from a contaminated needle, something we see play out in the film's early moments. As Weiss and Danziger learn more about the case, they realize the issue of needle-sticks is far larger than they could have anticipated, possibly encompassing an entire industry that is more than willing to smear a local businessman named Jeffrey Dancourt (Marshall Bell, The Astronaut Farmer), the inventor of a safety needle that would reduce and hopefully eliminate such issues for health care workers in the future.
With similar films within the courtroom drama niche, the story might arguably be the most intriguing part of the film, and in Puncture this isn't different. The story of how manufacturers reluctantly went from glass syringes to plastic ones is interesting, and the abilities of the manufacturers could tamp down a seemingly innocuous device like a needle snipper to reduce the possibility of needle-sticks is both amazing and frustrating. With the assistance of Hospital Group Purchasing Organizations (or GPOs), the introduction of new advances into the mix is virtually impossible as the system itself is a "pay to play" arena before one even gets a seat to the proverbial table. While Danziger drives the bus on the case before coming to the realization that it may bankrupt his firm (and his family), Weiss refuses to surrender it. He seems to have found this cause to oddly enough be his most personal.
And as Weiss, Evans is surprisingly good. He takes the life of an addict in stride, and does not blink at the flotsam he calls friends that hang out with him as they all get high. He frequently pays women to come home and help him in shooting up. And his whirling dervish of research and legal drafts that he undertakes during all of this seems to give his character an almost Hunter Thompson-esque feel to him. Watching him attempt to clean up his act in preparation for the harder fight with the GPOs is also commendable too, so maybe he's got some deeper acting chops than many could have expected.
However, there are other moments when the story serves up moments for Evans to stand out that the script fails to set up adequately. In a late scene where Evans vows to battle the opposing lawyer no matter the price, it is as if the parody he played in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is coming to woeful docudrama fruition. In addition, asking Evans to carry this material on his own is a little unreasonable, and Kassen simply is not able to match anything Evans brings to the table. While the additional supporting cast past those two is decent (particularly Brett Cullen, who plays the opposing lawyer), they are not on screen enough to swing the balance either way. Then there is Michael Biehn, who was brought into the film as a second act plot device to help inspire Weiss. A former insider who knows where the financial and procedural bodies are buried, he even infers that the company's damage is worldwide, linking it to the AIDS pandemic in Africa. I could buy it if it didn't sound so trite in a Donald Sutherland in JFK kind of way.
Gripes aside, Puncture certainly was not a grating film and didn't upset the formula that much, and Evans' dramatic turn is something I look forward to more of from the actor. And the material does give even the most jaded viewer some pause, particularly in how the medical industry's monetization of many goods and services has led to some questionable decision-making at best. So by all means come to see Chris Evans actually act, and stay for the valuable discussion and information the film provides.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Presented in 2.40:1 widescreen and in high-definition using the AVC codec, Puncture is a gritty film first and foremost, with everything outside a courtroom or law office done usually with handheld shots and never staying completely static. The image retains this rough feel, not packing too much image detail in tight shots but on the flip side, lacks DNR that would make the film feel more polished. A good portion of the film's events transpire in the Texas night and those black levels look deep and natural without noticeable bouts of crushing. It is not going to win awards for being pretty, but is a presumed step up from the standard definition disc.
The Dolby TrueHD track is not called upon to do too much during the film, but what it does it does well. Dialogue is strong and consistent for most of the film with marginal panning to the other front channels. There is an environmental layer of sound in the rear channels during scenes like those at Weiss' party for instance, and directional effects are present and convincing. It is an immersive lossless track, albeit not in the bombs and bullets manner that one would be accustomed to.
Aside from trailers for other Millennium Entertainment releases, nothing I could find here.
Puncture is not going to win any awards and does not reinvent the wheel within its story, but it is a decent film with a good performance by its lead, and if you like legal films then this one is nice to watch. Technically it is average and despite the lack of supplemental material, is worth checking out for a rental and a worthwhile night in.