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Review: Solid cast can't overcome undercooked drama 'Percy Vs. Goliath'

Courtesy of Saban Films


With a cast like Christopher Walken, Roberta Maxwell, Zach Braff and Christina Ricci starring in a prime “based on a true story” legal drama, you’d assume “Percy vs. Goliath” would offer more to its audiences then obligatory narrative check points that a quick Google search could answer. Alas, director Clark Johnson is fortunate to have an ensemble who can weed out the wonkier elements of a melodramatic screenplay. Everyone is clearly in this for the paycheck, but at least they add some conviction to a film that needs it. A predominately Canadian production, “Percy vs. Goliath” is finally making its debut in the states where commercial appeal might be limited. This doesn’t have the rousing, feel-good energy of “The Rainmaker,” “Dark Waters” and the little seen Ron Howard TV-Movie “Bitter Harvest.”

The true test will be if audiences engage with a story surrounding the legality of patent canola seeds. Based on a true story, Walken plays Percy Schmeiser, a third-generation farmer whose secret ingredient for success is planting his own product. The film documents his struggles with Monsanto, the “Goliath” of this narrative, after an investigation concludes their engineered pesticide-resistant seeds were found in his backyard. Percy claims they blew in from neighboring farms; though Monsanto isn’t biting and sue for punitive damages and net profits. Screenwriters Garfield L. Miller and Hilary Pryor do a solid job laying the framework for the ensuring legal battle, but it loses some momentum (and urgency) towards the second act.

It’s a classic tale of the little guy taking on the big guy, where one man’s livelihood and heritage is put on trial and the community must rally around the cause. A montage of Percy’s ensuing legal troubles takes up most of the latter half, concluding with an anti-climatic showdown at the Canadian supreme court. Braff plays the small-town lawyer - always in way over their head - who tries to smooth talk his way into a settlement before Percy makes the costly decision of keeping the battle going; and Rici, bless her soul, is a green activist planning to use Percy’s case for her own company’s objectives.

For a movie that’s called “Percy vs. Goliath,” Johnson’s film is small by comparison. The 78-year old Walken, forgive the pun, walks circles around the character (he can do this in his sleep), but the film’s string budget distract from the story’s more compelling aspects. The handful of courtroom scenes featured are undercooked and there’s no moment where someone screams: “I OBJECT!” and honestly, that’s all anyone wants.

Grade: C

PERCY VS GOLIATH is now playing in select theaters and available digitally.


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