Film Review: Percy vs Goliath
Director: Clark Johnson
Cast: Christopher Walken, Roberta Maxwell, Christina Ricci, Zach Braff, Peter Stebbings, Adam Beach, Luke Kirby, Andrea del Campo, Martin Donovan
Running Time: 99
Australian Distributor: Rialto Distribution
In the late 1990’s, Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser (played with weary conviction by Christopher Walken) was sued by the Monsanto corporation for “patent infringement.” Their claim was that Percy was planting his fields with some of Monsanto’s patented GMO seeds without a license.
A multi-generational family farmer, Percy argued that he has never planted with anyone’s seeds but his own. His father taught him to be a “seed saver” and store the most robust seeds for use the following year. Any Monsanto seeds found in his fields, Percy argued, must have travelled by wind or passing trucks.
Monsanto’s lead counsel Rick Aarons (Martin Donovan) isn’t buying it, and Percy’s folksy lawyer Jackson Weaver (Zach Braff) advises Percy and his wife Louise (Roberta Maxwell) to cut their losses and settle.
But Percy’s moral code – along with plenty of encouragement from environmental activist Rebecca Salcau (Christina Ricci) – leads him to the courtroom. Once there, the introverted Canadian farmer gets more attention than he bargained for, and pariah status in his own community.
Percy Vs. Goliath is a classic underdog story that has above-average performances but, unfortunately, comes up short of being compelling and moving. Walken, best known for his larger-than-life and eccentric performances, tones down his dynamic energy and portrays Percy as a low-key, loving family man who’s also a bit of a reclusive. He plays Percy as a man who’s worked hard his whole life to be a successful farmer and is extremely proud of his “seed saver” style of farming, a style that was handed down to him over generations of his family.
Zach Braff delivers a solid performance as Weaver, Percy’s lawyer, who at first advises the farmer to settle with the corporate giant fearing if he loses it could cost him his farm. Ultimately, he agrees to represent Percy in his legal fight with the behemoth. Braff portrays Weaver as a local small-town lawyer who never dreamed of having a client and case that would ever be this monumental and life-changing.
Christina Ricci seems miscast as Salcau, the activist who wants to help Percy in his fight while also harbouring her own self-serving reasons for wanting to be part of the case.
With its mind on justice for the little guy, local and global farming conflicts, manipulation from all sides and above all, doing the right thing, Percy vs Goliath has many hearts. However, it’s too low-key and laid back for its own good. It fails to get the audience emotionally connected to Percy and his fight. Though a worthwhile story that deserves to be told, the film is missing the dramatic tension it needs to be truly engaging, entertaining, and thought-provoking.
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