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Haunted Sideshow

Dustin Putman

Army of One  (2016)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2 Stars
(Release Date: November 15, 2016) – When Colorado construction worker Gary Faulkner (Nicolas Cage) receives a message from God (Russell Brand) to travel to Pakistan and hunt down wanted terrorist Osama Bin Laden, he puts his regular dialysis treatments for kidney disease on hold and prepares to sail to his destination armed with a pistol and a 40-inch sword. When he finally realizes getting to Pakistan by boat isn't exactly possible, he quickly makes alternate travel arrangements. If all of this sounds preposterous, it is. It's also very much true. Larry Charles, the filmmaker behind three pointedly hilarious Sacha Baron Cohen vehicles (2006's "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," 2009's "Brüno," and 2012's "The Dictator"), brings a dryly absurdist tone to "Army of One" but precious little insight into the abrasive, unfiltered, arguably delusional protagonist at its center. At least Charles has cast an actor who is willing to dive into the role; as Gary, Nicolas Cage (2016's "Snowden") gives his all in a positively unhinged performance, at once auspicious and irritatingly (but purposefully) screechy.

Tellingly, "Army of Man" is at its best when it's not focused on the hunt for Bin Laden. Instead, the more refreshingly honest moments are the ones between Gary and his former-classmate-turned-girlfriend Marci Mitchell (Wendi McLendon-Covey), an overworked but blessedly understanding partner caring for disabled goddaughter Lizzie (Chenoa Morison). Wendi McLendon-Covey (2016's "Hello, My Name Is Doris") is utterly disarming as Marci, not harping on Gary but accepting him for who he is and taking most of his out-there endeavors in stride. She does, however, want someone who will emotionally be there for her and Lizzie, and their relationship is one that rings true precisely because of how unorthodox it is.

"Army of One" loses its way when the screenplay by Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph (2014's "Draft Day") edges toward broad humor and a few late fantasy sequences during Gary's repetitive Middle East travels. In narration, the film makes the claim that our lead character is not mentally ill, but exhibits no real interest in digging beneath the surface to explore who Gary Faulkner is and why he is continuously hallucinating visions of God. By choosing to instead treat his journey for laughs, director Larry Charles misses his chance to make something more than a disposable 90-minute diversion. Nicolas Cage is exceptionally committed, but his role—and the picture as a whole—cries out for more depth.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Much like Gary Faulkner's wild trek to capture Osama Bin Laden, the 1080p transfer for "Army of One" is more a nice try than an unequivocal success. There is a slight softness to much of the film, particularly in backgrounds where one expects more clarity. Details certainly emerge in facial close-ups, but medium shots also appear to be at the mercy of the passable but far-from-eye-opening digital photography. Black levels are strong, while daytime scenes waver between pleasingly poppy and curiously washed-out. This picture presentation appears to be a fairly accurate representation of the source, but as a professionally made 2016 production, this is only a good—not great—high-definition transfer. Audio-wise, the film is fairly talky with not a whole lot of conventional action and sizzle, and the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio follows suit. Dialogue is clear and peripheral activity rises in the later city scenes set in Pakistan. Solid, but far from a reference-quality mix.

Blu-ray Features
  • "Making of Army of One" Featurette (7:07, HD)
Bottom Line
"Army of One" has its moments, most notably pertaining to performances from Nicolas Cage and Wendi McLendon-Covey which almost single-handedly save the film from its lack of insight or a satisfying payoff. Dimension Films and Anchor Bay Entertainment's Blu-ray release is workmanlike and light of bonus content, but it does include some worthwhile information in its 7-minute featurette. "Army of One" is worth checking out if you are a big fan of Cage or McLendon-Covey, but a rental rather than an outright purchase might be the safer bet.

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© 2016 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman


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