Review: Army of One
REVIEW: When ARMY OF ONE was first announced in the trades, for a split-second there I thought this might be Nicolas Cage’s ticket back to the big time. Based on a weird as f**k true story, and teaming Cage with BORAT director Larry Charles, at the very least I figured this would be an interesting character-driven comedy with some great set-pieces. Even when it was announced the movie would largely be bypassing theaters (it opens in limited release a mere week-and-a-half before it hits Blu-ray/DVD), I still held out hope.
Alas, it only took the amount of time it took for Cage to open his mouth and speak the nasally-whine left over from PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED for me to realize ARMY OF ONE wouldn’t be my cup of tea. That’s saying something, as the crazier Cage gets, the more I like it – with BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS and the recent DOG EAT DOG being examples of “Cage Rage” at its best. To give him credit, Cage goes all-in here. This isn’t USS INDIANAPOLIS, where he looks embarrassed to be in such a low-rent production. He really tries, but Charles’s direction doesn’t help at all. It’s as if he directed Cage to act like he’s Sacha Baron Cohen, but that’s not where Cage’s talents lay. Having him play slapstick doesn’t work, and rather than finding the note that would endear him to us, his Faulkner is agonizing to watch, a problem for your main character.
Again, at least he’s making an effort. The same can’t really be said for Charles, with the movie playing out like he thought he had a great concept, realized early-on it didn’t work, and just did the rest on autopilot. It’s like a bad sitcom, and might have been more effective had Charles used the faux-documentary approach that worked for his first few films with Cohen. The talented supporting cast is left adrift, with it never seeming plausible that Wendi McLendon-Covey’s level-headed character could immediately fall for Faulkner. Guys like Paul Scheer and Rainn Wilson do their best with the modest material, but you can’t help but feel embarrassed for them. I’m sure they were aware how desperately unfunny the film was turning out to be.
As God, Russell Brand collects a paycheck and doesn’t do much else. Given the way visions of him are shoehorned in with bad VFX, it looks like he shot his stuff in a day or so, and this is not the buddy-flick the cover art seems to promise. As is ambles through its scant ninety minute (with credits) running time, ARMY OF ONE gets more and more desperate, culminating in a dumb swordfight between Cage and Amer Chadha-Patel’s bin Laden in a cave, something so goofy it probably wouldn’t have made the final cut on a post-NAKED GUN Leslie Nielsen movie.
It’s really a shame ARMY OF ONE turned out so poorly as it’s chockfull of talent. This should have been good, and the premise is ambitious. In the end, the germ of a good idea wasn’t nearly enough to sustain a feature, and this is like a bad Funny or Die sketch stretched to feature-length. Only die-hard Cage fans need apply.
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