Mike Weiss (Chris Evans, from left) and Paul Danziger (Mark Kassen) are… (Millennium Entertainment )
The moody legal thriller "Puncture" stars Chris Evans ("Captain America: The First Avenger") as scrappy Houston lawyer Mike Weiss, a guy with a sharp mind, persuasive patter and reckless addiction to coke and prostitutes.
But before we're introduced to Weiss as a tattooed motel denizen who likes to practice his trial arguments shirtless, high and surrounded by sketchy types, directors Adam & Mark Kassen offer up a brief prologue with an equally ominous needle scenario: a young ER nurse (Vinessa Shaw) accidentally pricking herself with a contaminated syringe.
Her tragic case leads Weiss and his strait-laced, family-man law partner Paul Danziger (co-director Mark Kassen) to a larger, more sinister issue: Hospitals could be using safer, one-use-only needles, but instead are pressured by corrupt global purchasing organizations to buy cheaper products.
But as the pair's idealism in representing an industry-ignored safe-syringe inventor (Marshall Bell) comes up against the influential reach of the supply companies' wily defense lawyer (a fantastically smarmy Brett Cullen), their resolve as righteous small-timers gets the kind of willpower test only made worse by one member's drug dependence.
The movie, however, does a commendable job of merging its David vs. Goliath elements with Weiss' personal problems, doing justice to the fact that "Puncture" is based on true people and an actual case. (The real Danziger has a co-story credit on Chris Lopata's screenplay.)
Aware that moviegoers will bring regularly reported details of an out-of-control healthcare system with them, the Kassens wisely opt for a coolly understated approach. But that means the added liability of their protagonist's crippling addiction can at times make "Puncture" more downer than dander-raiser.
Still, the picture benefits from its performances, notably Evans' roguish appeal as a guy simultaneously driven and destructive. His superhero torso might not immediately scream "user," but his eyes and body language do, and they give this underdog saga a memorably churning sense of self-inflicted danger.