Percy Versus Goliath
Starring Christopher Walken, Christina Ricci, Zach Braff, Luke Kirby, Adam Beach, Martin Donovan, Roberta Maxwell and Peter Stebbings
Directed by Clark Johnson
Rating: ** ½
Walken walks into the role of Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser as though he owned him. While Walken is on screen playing this biographical man who took on the mighty corporates in their battle for patented seeds we forget he was the same actor who played the war veteran in The Deer Hunter ,the mercenary soldier in Dogs Of War and a drug lord in King Of New York.
Age sits well on Walken. He plays the 70-year old father and grandfather on a mission, with a deep unostentatious sincerity that beseeches greatness. Regrettably Percy Versus Goliath falls short of greatness by a wide margin. It is a well-meaning expertly executed exercize in social comment. But the voice is often indistinct , pale. The approach to the hardhitting subject matter lacks punch and intensity.
Perhaps this is intentional. Director Clark Johnson keeps the wakeup call subdued which I feel is not the desired octave in a film that screams in protest against the odds that farmers have to face the worldover.
In fact this film has a direct bearing on the farmers’ agitation in India.Towards the end, Percy flies down to India for a farmers’ summit where he brings the house down by arguing why laws pertaining to seed patency must stop being so loaded against farmers.This part of Percy’s story was actually filmed in India and for that reason it is my favourite portion of a measured, restrained literal study of the adage ‘As you sow so you reap’
With Walken effortlessly occupying centrestage , Percy’s strained relations with his son(Luke Kirby), his deeply empathetic bond with his wife (Roberta Maxwell) , and the blurred lines between professional and personal allegiances between Percy and his lawyer(Zack Braff) and a environmental activist(Christina Ricci) are very sharply drawn.
It is as if the writer and the director knows this world inhabited by sons of the soil but chooses not to dig too deep into it.Everything is right in the storytelling but too dry and freed of drama. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. I would have liked to see some more blood coursing through the vein of this righteous sincere drama.
The farmers’ protest against unfair corporate practices is sincere but lacking in passion. But Walken and the rest of the cast are remarkably attuned to the needs of the screenplay.They make the endeavour worth our while.