Percy vs Goliath

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Percy vs Goliath
dir Clark Johnson
scr Garfield Lindsay Miller, Hilary Pryor
prd Daniel Bekerman, Ethan Lazar, Brendon Sawatzky, Ian Dimerman
with Christopher Walken, Roberta Maxwell, Zach Braff, Christina Ricci, Adam Beach, Luke Kirby, Zoe Fish, Blake Taylor, Andrea del Campo, Martin Donovan, Pathy Aiyar, Peter Stebbings
release Can 9.Oct.20,
US 30.Apr.21
20/Canada 1h39

braff ricci kirby

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Based on a true story, this drama centres on a precedent-setting legal case in which an unassuming man took on a callous multinational corporation. While Dark Waters did this with urgency, this film takes a warmer approach, letting terrific actors engage the viewer as characters facing appalling injustice. So if the movie feels small-scale, the events it's portraying have enormous relevance. And how it plays out is inspiring.
In rural Saskatchewan in 1998, 70-year-old Percy (Walken) runs a canola farm with his wife Louise (Maxwell). When he's accused by Monsanto of using its seeds without a licence, he defiantly proves that he saves his own seeds. But the monolithic company continues its challenge, and local lawyer Jackson (Braff) advises him against taking on their ruthless legal team. This attracts the attention of activist Rebecca (Ricci), who drums up support. And as he takes on corporate greed in court, he becomes an international folk hero. Because Monsanto is suing farmers on a global scale.
The impossible conundrum here is that Monsanto's seeds contaminated Percy's crop, and the courts agree that the company now owns it, even if the contamination is accidental. And it's rousing to see Percy refuse to back down like everyone else. This adds a hint of complexity, even if the script feels somewhat unambitious. For example, key side roles are never developed, such as Percy's supporting but dubious son Peter (Kirby) and loyal farmhand Alton (Beach).

With terrific presence and no grandstanding, Walken is excellent as a guy who isn't enjoying the limelight but knows that he has acted with integrity in standing up for himself. Maxwell is terrific as his knowing wife, a strong role that never blurs into the background. Braff adds a superbly witty sense of perspective as a small-town attorney taking on a growing army of corporate lawyers. And Ricci has a righteous bullishness as a tenacious woman battling to clean up a corrupt system.

Monsanto's actions around the world are despicable: genetically modifying seeds that inadvertently spread into farms, then suing farmers for all they had. In other words, forcing everyone to buy its products. That it took this scruffy farmer to get the legal system to admit this is shocking, indicative of much deeper ongoing problems in society. And as Percy travels to witness the situation elsewhere and gather momentum in his campaign, he has a terrific sense of earthy heroism, risking everything to stand up for what's right.

cert pg themes, language 19.Apr.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall