Thursday, December 7, 2023
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Percy Review

Hard it may be to associate farmers with anything but beautiful, fertile fields, country music and ropey redneck tropes, Percy does try, somewhat, to steer itself away from that. How important generational bonds are to those who own family-run businesses is adapted to this biopic feature. Threatened by a conglomerate of shifty and slimy proportions, Percy follows the eponymous farmer and his family as they punch upwards and come out swinging. It is the typical story of surviving an industry that has far outgrown the need and desire for homemade, family-cherished products. That is what makes Percy so touching, apparently. But the scope of the modern era and what director Clark Johnson approves of is mired by an infallible leading man who has adapted to the times with material wealth and odd riches.

The process Percy takes in displaying a modernised vision of the farmhand, battling and bending to corporate needs and greed, is depicted amicably. It is the revolution of technology that startles Percy (Christopher Walken) and his family most. How that is possible, is rather surprising. He turns up on his farm with a top of the range automobile designed, I assume, for cutting or planting wheat. Whatever it is, it is big, burly and yellow. Percy knows enough about the changing tides of time to adapt his work rate, but not enough to know that, sooner or later, his family business will die. So many lose their businesses, passed down from generation to generation because time has caught up to their practices. Steep prices in a tight economy, we may only project what we know of the real world onto how Percy conducts his business. Walken does that well, but it does seem rather an odd leading role for him to deliver.

Continuing these odd casting choices, Zach Braff attempts to find his niche. He has worked with the greats in a variety of ill-fitting roles, but it is commendable for him to try and reinvent himself. It works, to some degree. We no longer see the fresh-faced J.D. of Scrubs fame, but we see little else there as its replacement. He walks with a limp, advises Percy to give in to the Goliath of the industry. Had the references to the Book of Samuel not been obvious enough, Johnson layers the subtext on thick with a story that follows suit of this Bible passage. It does no tremendous damage to follow such a narrative, especially considering Walken and Braff are amiable in their work. The key to this, though, is that they are always amiable. We can find likeable, friendly performances in stronger films than this by the men at the heart of Johnson’s biopic feature.

Percy is dull, dumb, and disillusioned by the idea that its tale of a small-town farmer taking on a big corporation can offer anything wholly unique or credible to the debate surrounding capitalism. Its formative moments come from Walken, aged and dogged, toiling away in the courtroom in the company of lawyers. He is sticking to his guns when the going gets rough. At least there is emotion on display in those brief moments. Emotion is just so infrequent that when we finally receive such work, it serves as a break from the boring bits, rather than a moment that is charged and bolstered by the context of the scenes.

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Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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