PUNCTURE is a remarkable story told in a disappointingly unremarkable way. Based on a true story, this tale of a small-time lawyers taking on Big Pharma offers no surprises about the evil that the profit motive can produce, but it does have one enormously redeeming quality that makes it worth watching. Chris Evans. As Mike Weiss, the brilliant disaster of a lawyer, he turns in a performance that gives no quarter. It is raw, it is dangerous, and it is unforgettable.
Appealing to the sense of outrage that profits over people engenders, the film has a prime storyline. An inventor has devised a safety syringe that will prevent the annual 800,000 accidental needle sticks suffered by health care workers. The sticks do more than hurt, they infect the healthcare workers who suffer them with virulent forms of hepatitis and, worse, HIV. When the small-time lawyers, Weiss and Paul Danziger (Chris Evans and co-director Mark Kassen), who are on the perpetual brink of bankruptcy, agree to visit a nurse who has been infected with HIV in this way, they are surprised that she doesnt want money. She wants the hospital where she works, and every hospital in Houston and the United States for that matter, to switch to the safety syringes. What astounds the pair is that even though it could save lives, and even though no one disputes it, hospitals purchasing agents refuse to buy them. Kickbacks given legislative blessing, a high-priced law firm that can buy influence and the time it takes to wait out an opponent on the verge of bankruptcy, and Weiss drug problem conspire to keep the good guys from winning, and the slow reveal of exactly who can and cant be bought off, and why they can or cant be, makes more for the comforting tropes of a morality play than for suspense, though one that is expertly acted.
The suspense comes from Weiss who can party with paid companions, snorting coke and injecting other controlled substances, and yet still come up with the genius strategy for winning a case. Sometimes while partying. There are the idiosyncratic touches that include the pet alligator in his backyard, but the real essence of the character is in how Evans makes you believe that even as he is about to self-destruct, he is also the smartest guy in the room, and that no matter how badly he messes up, he is so charming, so basically decent, that even those whom he has let down the most will forgive him endlessly. So does the audience. He is a good guy without the capacity for backing down that cooler heads, such as his long-suffering partner, possess.
Conceived as a tribute to Weiss, PUNCTURE has a touching and bittersweet quality that sets it apart from the usual expose of evil in high places. The film itself is a somber thing, intense but not as gripping as it could have been, and loaded down with a few too many clichés, including the car lights that suddenly flicker on with implied menace as a car pulls out of a driveway. Overlooking the faults, there is an earnest film at work full of the proper sense of outrage at the bad guys, and sweet compassion for its flawed hero.