After Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe Obviously Had to Play a Farting Corpse
Radcliffe gives the best performance of his career in this outrageous, boundary-pushing romp.
Hollywood has been making buddy comedy movies since its inception, as everyone from the Marx Brothers and Laurel and Hardy to Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte have offered their spins on the classic odd couple formula. In 2016, however, the familiar genre was pushed to its limit.
Swiss Army Man, written and directed by Everything Everywhere All At Once filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (a.k.a. The Daniels), was met with derision and praise when it made its premiere at the 2016 Sundance International Film Festival. Nearly seven years later, Swiss Army Man’s unapologetically oddball energy still feels as vivid and striking now as it did then. The film’s gonzo creative vision has yet to be truly matched.
Now, coming off the Daniels’ recent Oscar nominations for their work on Everything Everywhere All At Once, Swiss Army Man is streaming on HBO Max, and well worth checking out.
Swiss Army Man revolves around one of the strangest duos in the history of cinema. The film follows Hank Thompson (Paul Dano), a suicidal man stranded on a deserted island. His life is saved when he stumbles upon an excessively flatulent corpse he later names Manny (Daniel Radcliffe). Using Manny’s farting body as a propulsive jet ski, Hank sails his way back to America.
From there, we follow Hank as he forms a friendship with Manny, who talks in stilted sentences and is capable of, among other things, filtering unclean water and chopping logs with his arms. Manny’s abilities allow Swiss Army Man to fulfill the promise of its title, and the Daniels don’t ever miss an opportunity to take the film’s body comedy as far as possible. The directing duo, who were previously only known for their work on several memorable music videos for artists like Lil Jon, bring a livewire energy that accentuates the absurd story.
The Daniels’ ability to craft awe-inspiring, punchy montages is particularly notable. The film not only delivers an explosive montage that’s set to a song called “Montage,” but also features a handful of quick, tangent-filled sequences in which Hank tries to explain what normal life is to Manny by showing him flattened pizza boxes, Chinese takeout containers, broken sunglasses, and other pieces of discarded trash.
Underneath every scene is the aggressively odd a capella musical score by Manchester Orchestra, which both heightens the film’s playful spirit and adds an extra layer of surreality to the whole affair. Together, the film’s score, direction, and editing come together to create a piece of art that feels fresh, new, and unlike anything audiences have seen before.
While Swiss Army Man doesn’t land its emotional beats as well as Everything Everywhere All At Once does, the same endearing open-heartedness is present. The Daniels effectively juxtapose the film’s empathy with its raunchy comedy and boundary-pushing transgressiveness. The result presents a seemingly incongruous blend of irreverence and warmth that feels like it could only exist in a movie about a possibly insane man who befriends a flatulent corpse.
Dano and Radcliffe are completely committed to their characters’ absurd yet surprisingly vulnerable friendship, which only makes the film’s underlying sweetness that much more effective. As a result, Manny and Hank not only believably reshape the other’s view of life, but also use each other to create the world’s first human jet ski. What other buddy duo in movie history can you say that about?
Swiss Army Man is streaming now on HBO Max.