Every time Nicolas Cage releases direct to video movie I get excited. Yes, I have seen them all. Yes, I love each of them. Yes, my therapist and I are working on this compulsion for self harm. BUT for every Pay the Ghost or Left Behind, we get sometimes get a ‘Joe’ or ‘The Trust’ or something equally as awesome. It’s worth the horrific abuse to my eyeballs and brain stuffs (sorry to get all scientific, but Cage brings out the intellect in me) because when Nicolas Cage is delivering its most likely going to be the most entertaining and original performance of the year. I can’t defend every movie the man does (Left Behind is so bad it boarders on physical assault…), but when he’s on this motherfucker is on! Army Of One director Larry Charles (Bruno, Borat) knows exactly how to contain the erratic and explosive genius is Cage and focus this force into a unique and entertaining performance.
By all accounts Gary Faulkner (Nicolas Cage) is a loser. Loud mouth, annoying and unemployed (the holy trinity of ‘The Loser’) Gary spends his days holding down a bar and playing ‘armchair quarterback’ towards the world of politics. His personal favorite area of interest is how to successfully capture Osama Bin Laden. Most of his friends and love interest (played by Wendi Mclendon-Covey) don’t think too much of Gary’s boasting mostly due to the fact that Gary has kidney failure and requires dialysis multiple times a week. Kind of hard to travel to a 3rd world country and engage in “spy” games when you’re hooked up to one of those machines. Yes, the story takes place over a decade ago when Bin Laden was still at large. Thankfully for Gary (and the audience) there’s one person who doesn’t think Gary is blowing hot air and is more than capable of successfully capturing one of the most notorious wanted people in history and that person is God. Yeah that God (played by Russell Brand). Gary begins to have visions from God commanding him to go Afghanistan and bring Bin Laden to justice by any means necessary. Not wanting to be blasphemous, Gary arms himself with a samurai sword (purchased from The Home Shopping Network, like any good samurai sword) and heads on the greatest journey of the 21st century.
Nicolas Cage owns the screen in this one. He plays Gary with a lovable mania that is impossible to not be charmed by. I will say his choice in voice for Gary was a bit jarring at first ( especially when you hear the real life Gary Faulkner speak and its nothing like that), but did add to the character a certain level of eccentricity. And eccentricity is exactly what I want from a Nic Cage comedic performance! Larry Charles is a fantastic director and knows exactly how to use Cage. He doesn’t go “full Cage”, but does fill the movie with enough laughs and actually delivers a samurai sword fight between Gary and Bin Laden. Yes you read that correctly. You see with out his regular dialysis treatments Gary is prone to hallucinations and that is where the movie loses what makes it special. They explained why Gary was behaving the way he was and (to me) that’s where the movie lost it’s bite. Still a quirky flick, but lacked a certain edge I expected from Charles. The man gave us Borat! I hold him to high standard and have come to expect in your face craziness. I guess between the subject matter and Cage, Charles assumed he had more than enough to carry the movie.
Based on a true story is not the case here. Although, there was actually a Gary Faulkner who, on a mission from God,did travel to Afghanistan to attempt to capture Osama Bin Laden. The movie lets you know from the beginning that they are in no way trying to recreate what really transpired. Something tells me if you dive too deep into the real story of Gary Faulkner there would be nothing funny outside of the initial novelty of the story. Charles knows this and kicks the movie off with Nicolas Cage in an American flag jump suit hang gliding over Afghanistan, rocking 80’s hair metal. It may not be a perfect movie, but I’ll be goddamned if I will let the terrorist win and not recommend this movie!
Army of One is not Nicolas Cage’s next Leaving Las Vegas, but it’s far away from a direct to digital crapfest. Weird, funny and strangely endearing, Army of One is the strange journey with a strange man on a strange quest. What more could I ask for!?!