This is exactly the film that Chris Evans needed to follow Captain America: The First Avenger with, not What’s Your Number? Puncture is a smart crackpot courtroom drama starring Chris Evans as a drugged out lawyer who won’t take no for an answer. It’s a calculated drama that elevates Chris Evans from a pretty boy superhero to a grown up actor who can be serious and vulnerable if the film calls for it. Directors Mark and Adam Kassen keep the film focused on a small assortment of important characters which helps keep the goals clear and the film easy to watch.
Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) is a hard hitting and determined lawyer who also has a major drug problem. He has no problem masking it from close friends and he never lets it get the best of him as far as his upbeat personality goes, but he does let it hold him back from being the person he could be. Mike and his partner Paul (Mark Kassen) are thrown a case about a safe needle that can prevent accidental punctures and ultimately help reduce the numbers of transferred diseases. These needles are one and done, unlike most plastic needles that are re-used around the world. Of course these needles will cost a few extra pennies more to produce than the leading regular needle, but according to certain laws the medical field is supposed to go with whatever is the safest and most efficient to use.
This all gets started up because of a nurse named Vicky (Vinessa Shaw) who accidentally gets stabbed with a needle, causing her to contract AIDS. While she dies on her deathbed Mike and his partner must help the inventor of the safe needle get his product into all of the hospitals. Of course the big companies that control what hospitals use aren’t open to this idea because they already have fixed deals with other companies. This giant monopoly of sorts is holding back Mike and Paul from making what’s right stand.
The case takes several twists and turns when opposing lawyers go to battle with Mike and Paul, which nearly cuts off all funds that their firm has. Mike is faced with this very important case of doing what’s right while battling his own demons. He’s a heavy drug user that can’t seem to quit even though he knows it’s affecting his personal health and his professional career. Senators won’t back him or what he stands for if he’s constantly stuffing his nose full of cocaine and his partner Paul is at the breaking point of trying to deal with Mike’s poor attitude and this big case that could close them down.
Puncture is a high stakes film that shows two very different sides of a drug user in a very refreshing way thanks to the always enthusiastic Chris Evans. He portrays Mike Weiss with such an upbeat and careless approach. When Mike is at the office he’s fast talking, persuasive and determined, not willing to let anything get in the way of him winning the case, but when he’s at home he’s a lonely drug addict who continues to shoot up and get high because it gives him a sense of fulfillment and purpose. He uses things like drugs and sex to keep him going day to day and to lock down his depression and lack of connection with any other person. The only person he does connect with on any level is his partner Paul and even that relationship is complicated. Mike is always coming in late or no showing to meetings that Paul has setup and reminded him about a dozen of times. They constantly bicker and argue, but when they work as a team it’s as if nothing can get in there way.
Co-director Mark Kassen plays his partner Paul and for what the role asks for he does just fine. Puncture is very much Evans’ film, but when the more responsible half has to step in and take care of business Kassen doesn’t seem to have any problems. As for his directing, both him and his brother Adam do a brilliant job of showing how disoriented and baffled drugs can make you. Mike will be at the courtroom trying to help a client one minute and then at a party with his pet alligator the next. He’s a combustible element waiting to explode and the Kassen’s show skill in the ways they choose to lead up to the explosion.
You never quite know when Mike is going to combust, but you know it’s coming any minute. Puncture takes another unexpected turn in how it depicts Mike’s struggle with overcoming drugs. Usually films build up on how hard it is to kick a specific drug and then the protagonist quits using and that’s that, but with Puncture you get the real aspect of how a drug user deals with it. Mike tries going cold turkey, but he gets sick and ends up in the hospital. He continues to stay on the straight and narrow until temptation comes knocking and he deals with it in a more realistic and kind of unsettling way.
One thing that didn’t really help Puncture was how the end started to structure itself. People like Michael Biehn randomly show up for brief scenes that are needed for the story, but handled poorly and not given much detail. The whole film works so well at showing you how hard and complicated these cases can really be, with time never being on your side and then it throws in a few plot advancements and wraps up rather quickly, barely giving you any time to soak it all up. It robs certain reactions from characters that could have otherwise been extended and given a little more detail.
Puncture may not work as a flashy legal drama with characters that are broken and flawed that find complete redemption, instead Puncture is a more personal film that deals with flawed people becoming less flawed in a corrupt world. People don’t go from bad to good by the end of the running time, but they do better themselves and try to better the people around them. It’s much more character oriented than recent legal dramas like The Lincoln Lawyer, but it’s just as good. I give The Lincoln Lawyer a little more credit for its impressive compilation of fine actors and actresses, but I give Puncture more credit for focusing on one really strong performance by Chris Evans. The only real problems it faced were its quick ending and lack of any other characters as strong as Mike. You didn’t really feel the need to spend time with anyone other than the drugged out, suspender wearing Mike, played with dimension by Chris Evans.
Puncture – 8/10