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Title: Punching Henry

Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4stars:
Extras: :1star:

HTS Overall Score:75

By the title of the film you’d expect something of a violent type of movie. Well, physical violence at least, since the titular character of the film is pummeled quite mercilessly by the winds of fate during the 98 minute film. For those of you who watch film festivals and said “wait? Doesn’t this sound familiar”, then you’re be right. Comedian Henry Phillips created another film with a similar title (and starring pretty much the same character) a few years back called “Punching the Clown”, which acts as a sort of prequel or spiritual guide for this more mature and polished work. “Punching Henry” is not exactly a sequel to “Punching the Clown”, but also kind of a remake at the same time, after “Punching the Clown” gained a heap load of praise over at Sundance. I personally hadn’t heard much of Henry Phillips until “Punching the Clown” came out and found out he’s pretty much one of those comedians who is not heard much past Comedy Central shows and these two particular films. He reminds me of a less “in your face” version of Stephen Lynch, as his comedy routines are pretty much low key folksy songs that utilize some pretty crazy lyrics to give the audience a chuckle. He’s an acquired taste to some, and not funny to many others (myself included), but he has a sort of wit and charm that makes his persona in the two films a likeable (if not kicked around) sort of fella.

Harris plays a man named Henry who ALSO is a troubadour comedian who sings his comedy for his supper. The film pretty much starts out by letting us know that Henry is having a hard time of things. His fans are few and far between, and the ones he does have are plagued with being just as hard up as he is. The film is jumps back and forth in time, with part of the runtime focusing in on the future where Henry is being interviewed by a radio show host (played by a very tamed down Sarah Silverman) and the rest of the movie being filled in by his stories of what happens to him on the road. Henry’s road life is NOT that great. He’s kicked around a lot, goes to dive bars and crummy hotels where no one remembers to book him a room, but he loves what he does. Still, when your car is seemingly stolen, your lesbian friend wants you to be the daddy for their child, and you’re a 40 year old comedian watching as all the other younger comedians pass you by things are a little bleak.

With that being said, things start to look up when a producer (J.K. Simmons) draws Henry’s attention when he wants to make a TV show starring the comedian. Heading over to L.A. Henry finds out that things aren’t exactly looking up as he had thought. This producer is intent on making him rich with a great show, but the show isn’t about his musical comedy workings like the comedian thought. Instead it’s about a viral video that Henry had of himself and his hair on fire where the studio heads want to make a show about an idiot (aka Henry) and Henry is now forced with making a decision. Will he continue to just barely get by on his own terms, making his own comedy, and knowing he will never be GREAT. Or will he take this opportunity by the hand and sell out.

“Punching Henry” is not a laugh out loud comedy. Instead it really is more of a mumblecore indie film comedy, which relies heavily on dry humor and pain to get the audience to raise their glass and give a chuckle. Calling it a “comedy” really is almost disingenuous, as it isn’t really intended to get you to laugh out loud as much as it is to get you to smile. Henry (at least the character in the film) is a sweet character and its wonderfully inspiring to see him following his dreams, even if it means that his dreams won’t garner him the success that so many of us find as being “worthy” of dreaming of. The narcissistic tendencies of L.A. are strewn heavily throughout the film and really are fairly accurate of the fickleness that is the world of the entertainment industry. Still it’s fantastic to see Henry strive to walk his path despite knowing full well the trials and tribulations that will occur if he continues doing what he’s doing.

Here comes the part where I felt the film let us down a bit. If you’ve watched “Punching the Clown” you’ve pretty much seen the same movie, just with a few different scenes and twists to the plot. The film follows its predecessor nearly beat for beat using the same incidents and the same issues to fuel the plotline. Sure, there’s different actual locations and different encounters on his trip (also different characters), but “Punching Henry” still uses the same structure and guide posts creating a very similar movie, just a little more polished I think. The second shortcoming was the fact that I really don’t find Henry Phillips that funny. Most of his gags both in and out of the film just fell pretty flat for me, and I had a heart time resonating with his character. The sweetness of the guy and his admirable gumption is fantastic, but the part that really makes you care about him as a person, just didn’t seem to jive with me.


Not Rated by the MPAA

Video :4.5stars:
Well Go USA has been putting out more and more REALLY high quality encodes recently. It used to be that black crush and heavy banding was a staple of their video market, but the last few discs I’ve received from them have been really impressive. “Punching Henry” is a very obviously digital shoot and one that impresses in just about every way. The color tones are rather neutral, but there is a slight yellowish brown tinge to the grading that is most noticeable indoors. Color saturation is well done and the fine detail is startlingly revealing with crisp facial features and distinctly noticeable details in surrounding environmental items like wicker chairs or potted plants in the background. Black levels are good (though there IS some crush indoors and some of the stages that Henry is on will introduce some washed out levels (which is natural in that type of setting).

Audio :4stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix is what one would expect from an Indie comedy like “Punching Henry”. Dialog is the main focus of the track and much of the surrounding material is fairly front heavy with only limited engagement of the rears. The vocals are usually VERY good, but sometimes the stage dialog can get a little bit muddled when lost in the reverb of the microphones, and the use of the surrounds is really limited to music and a few background city noises (or the mumbling of dialog from people in a restaurant). LFE is smooth and clean, tending to keep to itself except as accompanying weight to the music.

Extras :1star:

• Brendon Walsh Suffers
• Deleted Scenes
• Stupid Joe
• Trailer

Overall: :3.5stars:

“Punching Henry” does a great job at showing how the glitz and glamour of show business is not nearly so prevalent as normal Hollywood would have us believe. Henry Philips does a very good (if not slightly flawed) job at creating a somber, but sweet, look at the pitfalls of following that life. While the humor is less “guffaw” worthy than it is sweetly humorous, it has a wonderful cast of actors that do a great job in the indie film scene. The audio and video are both great (Well Go USA has seriously stepped up its video encode game recently) and the extras are slim but well done. Interesting watch.

Additional Information:

Starring: Henry Phillips, Sarah Silverman, J.K. Simmons
Directed by: Gregori Viens
Written by: Henry Phillips, Gregori Viens
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DD 2.0
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: NR
Runtime: 98 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 18th, 2017

Buy Punching Henry On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Interesting Watch

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