Puncture (2011) Review

punctureI suspect the worldwide success of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” has something to do with this film finally getting a UK DVD/ BluRay release on 21st July, albeit under the alternative title of “Injustice” and with almost zero publicity. Released Stateside in 2011, “Puncture” tells the true story of Mike Weiss (Chris Evans), a young Houston lawyer and drug addict who take on the case of an ER nurse who contracted AIDS after being pricked by a contaminated needle.

Doggedly pursuing the case while his private life crumbles, he and his legal partner Paul Danziger (Mark Kassen) confront a cartel of pharmaceutical companies and health care providers whose heavyweight lawyers will stop at nothing to maintain the status quo.

There’s a compelling story at the heart of this film but there’s so much noise and distraction around it that it struggles at times to make itself heard. Alongside the shocking story of the healthcare industry’s attempts to block a product which would save thousands of lives for the sake of a few cents shaved off profit margins, the movie also tries to cram in the struggles of a small legal firm and Weiss’ escalating drug abuse and debauchery. The result is a bit of a mess and none of the stories really get the payoff they deserve. Primarily, it fails to deliver the cathartic moments legal dramas usually head for, the courtroom showdown and instead we’re offered a couple of tense pre-trial boardroom scenes as compensation.

While the script may be unfocussed and overloaded, the performances are top notch. Chris Evans delivers a powerful performance as the hedonistic but talented lawyer and at times runs the risk of overpowering the film due to the relative weakness of the script. Marshall Bell is sympathetic and dogged as Jeffrey Dancort, inventor of the safety needle who can’t get the industry interested and Brett Cullen is superb as the high priced attack lawyer hired by the healthcare lobby to crush the smaller law firm.

Based on true events, the movie isn’t able to distil the full potential of the drama from the multiple plot threads and although it tries very hard to portray this as a David vs Goliath struggle against a monstrously dysfunctional health care system fought by a flawed and self-destructive hero  it just can’t quite get everything to gel properly. The story itself would have made a fantastic episode of “Boston Legal” with a trademark Alan Shore showboat closing at the end but as a standalone feature, it ends up being disappointingly formulaic with a lacklustre payoff that at least honestly reflects the gloomy reality of how the case eventually resolved.

5/10 Score 5

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