I ask this in all seriousness, but what was the last good Nicolas Cage movie? I don’t count a movie that he had a throwaway role in either. Last one I remember was GHOST RIDER. You can give me crap for that choice, but I liked that movie. Cage could easily be accused of, at the least, being in a lengthy slump after his Oscar win or, at the most, being accused of being a generally crappy actor. I think he’s somewhere in between.
ARMY OF ONE is a perfect example of that. He’s hamming it up as Gary Faulkner, a real-life man who went on an insane journey to the Middle East to hunt Osama Bin Laden, and he still is. Of course he isn’t some patriotic lune, he’s a religious lune. He believes he is on a mission from God who has appeared to him in human form, played by Russell Brand. I’d like to believe God wouldn’t look so scruffy, but always hoped he’d have a British sense of humor.
Because the movie can’t be a 90-minute odyssey of Faulkner’s failed attempts at killing the world’s most wanted man, Faulkner runs into an old high school flame played by Wendi McLendon-Covey. For some reason, in between his indecipherable ramblings and drug benders, she sticks it out with him, even introducing him to her daughter. There actually is a slightly uplifting reason why the movie has Faulkner run into the single mom.
But most of the movie is choppy. There’s a narrator that pops in and out without rhyme or reason. Faulkner’s failed attempts, supposedly being true, feel shoehorned in as we’re under the impression he’s poor and has even poorer technical skills, making his attempts at sailing to Pakistan (not geographically possible) or hang gliding into the country (probably not physically or aerodynamically possible), like some kind of fairy tale. Since we’re never shown how he is able to fund these Wile E. Coyote schemes, ARMY OF ONE leaves a lot to the imagination. In fact it takes out all the potential ingenuity, leaving the dry nuts and bolts of the plot.
This is a bad movie. Don’t get me wrong. It’s unfortunate watching the man who directed and corralled Sacha Baron Cohen in BRUNO and BORAT reduced to drumming up interest in a nearly half decade old true-story that’s only interesting on paper. His technical skills are wasted and what natural comedic abilities he has aren’t anywhere near this film. It’d be more interesting to find out why Larry Charles would entertain this kind of bumbling script.
The one key ingredient that makes the movie lazily amusing in a “nothing better to do” viewing experience is Cage. He’s given a little bit of age, a beard, and handed the ramblings and vision of a lunatic. Cage makes Faulkner the crazy man he is, but it’s what Cage does when Faulkner’s not on a wild hunt across the desert and mountains. He almost brings viewer pity to a man who’s clearly suffering from some mental illness or drug-induced delusions. There are moments where Faulkner stops rambling and Cage lets this deep sorrow and wonder of what Faulkner’s doing with his life set in behind those crazed eyes.
ARMY OF ONE isn’t a comedy or character study. A lot of blame can be pointed at other people on that one. You could even make the argument this is a movie that was made so that people who’ve always heard about Cage’s behind-the-scenes antics, would be given the opportunity to fulfill their lifelong dream of working with him. While I’m sure it’s a true pleasure to work with a man who accepts the role and over acts the hell out of it, I can’t help but think Cage is worthy of something better. If he’s able to carry a bad movie this well, just think if he’s handed another like he had in ADAPTATION.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2:39:1) This is a cheap movie. The clarity of the blu-ray shows that. When they’re not in a generic desert or cityscape, they’re piecing together a poorly realized Pakistani city street or hookah lounge set piece.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The lack of production design mirrors nearly every department. The music in this is lacking and the only thing that seems prevalent in terms of audio is Cage. That’s not a bad thing, but the impressive packaging highlights the sloppy craftsmanship.
Making ARMY OF ONE (7:07): You’re going to get tired of hearing everyone talk about how this is a true story. Much of the feature moves quickly between its interviews with Cage, Charles, and other cast and crew. It strings together a pithy look at the movie’s making-of, but offers no insight about how this movie ever came about.