Mike Weiss could never be confused with Captain America, even by those inclined to honor his memory by looking past his gluttonous appetite for self-destruction.
Yet the late Houston lawyer, who died of a drug overdose at 32 while waging the fight of his life against corrupt hospital purchasing cartels, chased justice with a passion feverish enough to rival Uncle Sam’s chosen crusader.
Chris Evans, who fleshed out the genetically enhanced superhero in this summer’s “Captain America: The First Avenger,” plays Weiss, a brilliant attorney undone by his addictions — to sex, to drugs, to reckless hedonism in all its forms — in “Puncture,” a smart medical melodrama opening Friday.
“Whatever you think about the successes or failures of the bigger movies he’s done, Chris is great in all of them,” says Adam Kassen, who co-directed “Puncture” with his brother Mark, and wooed Evans by “getting him drunk.” “His talents are masked a lot because there are explosions going on around him, or because he’s on fire, but Chris is really charismatic.
“For Mike, we didn’t want to cast somebody who’d fall into the trappings of a self-indulgent performance. We wanted someone who could be truthful, but at the same time someone who was magnanimous and electric, because that’s who Mike was. And that’s Chris.”
Evans, who professes his love for Captain America while in the same breath noting how refreshing it was to play a more grounded, less idealized character, says he was drawn to Mike in part because he recognized the desperation of his lifestyle.
But after consulting those who knew the lawyer best — his family and friends, including users he used to score drugs with — the actor decided he “couldn’t shoot from the hip.”
“I had to create a character those people could recognize,” says Evans, 30. “I couldn’t make stuff up — this is a real human being. And I felt as if I knew him, to an extent, because luckily or unluckily, I’ve had a lot of experience in my personal life with people battling drugs.”
“Puncture” captures Weiss not only at his lowest — ruining his marriage and compromising his career during an ongoing series of lost weekends — but also at his most inspiring, fighting for safer, retractable needles to be used in hospitals where doctors and nurses were routinely exposed to health risks by needlessly dangerous equipment.
“That’s what makes a great character — real lives aren’t black and white,” says Kassen. “Mike was abrasive and massively irresponsible. But there was greatness in him, and everyone we spoke to had genuine affection for him, almost in spite of him.”
Starring Chris Evans, Mark Kassen, Brett Cullen, Marshall Bell, Michael Biehn, Jesse L. Martin
Written by Chris Lopata
Directed by Adam Kassen, Mark Kassen
Running time 1 hour 33 minutes