★★ / ★★★★
A pair of personal injury lawyers, Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) and Paul Danziger (Mark Kassen), are contacted by a nurse (Vinessa Shaw) who contracted HIV because she had struck herself with a needle accidentally while working on a patient in a state of convulsion. Because of what had happened to her, a friend, Jeffrey Dancort (Marshall Bell), invents safety needles—the kind that automatically retracts upon usage and cannot be used again. Although Dancort has contacted many hospitals about his invention, all of them—because of a highly influential medical supply business—refuse to use his product even though it can save millions of lives of healthcare workers around the globe.
Although propelled by good intentions, a potentially fascinating case, based on a true story, is diluted by an uneven subplot involving one of the lawyers’ drug addiction. The former demands more attention than the latter and so when the film turns its attention to explore Weiss’ personal demons, the urgency of the story is diminished.
Part of the reason why I could not buy into Weiss as a character is due to the casting of Evans. It is not that he does not do an adequate job with the role. He is often let down by his looks. We are supposed to believe that his character is a hardcore drug addict and still somewhat functional as he obsesses over the case. Sure, we see him with ugly bruises on his arm and looking pale from time to time, but it all appears as make-believe. I noticed an actor, covered with make-up, playing a role of a drug addict, still handsome despite supposedly looking undesirable.
The other half of the partnership is not developed. Even if the subplot involving the drug addiction were effective, I wanted to know more about Danziger as a real person. Instead, his character is written simply as a man who always strives to do the right thing. We are asked to feel sorry for him—unwarranted because we do not get a chance to know him beyond the superficial level—as he deals with piling amount of bills and a pregnant wife.
How does the newfangled needle work exactly? The picture does not provide enough close-ups or comparisons to the “standard” needle in order for us to appreciate the novelty of it. We need to see how it operates so we can then understand why it is better than the alternative. Instead, it relies on our current knowledge, if any, with regards to the differences. Show this movie to someone fifty years from now and it is likely that the person will not be aware of all the hubbub.
Directed by Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen, “Puncture” is a drama that might have benefited greatly from a scientific approach of telling its story. Its core involves a monopoly within the business of medical health supplies and the lives being put in unnecessary danger because of it. That is enough human drama (greed, exploitation, power) to explore. The rest, for the most part, come off as padding.