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Army of One: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Army of One (2016) movie poster Army of One

Theatrical Release: November 4, 2016 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Larry Charles / Writers: Rajiv Joseph, Scott Rothman (screenplay); Chris Heath (article first published in Gentlemen's Quarterly magazine)

Cast: Nicolas Cage (Gary Faulkner), Russell Brand (God), Wendi McLendon-Covey (Marci Mitchell), Amer Chadha-Patel (Osama Bin Laden), Paul Scheer (Pickles), Will Sasso (Roy), Chenoa Morrison (Lizzie Mitchell), Denis O'Hare (Agent Doss), Rainn Wilson (Agent Simons), Adrian Martinez (Mysterious Man #1), Larry Charles (Charles Rosewater), Hilary Jardine (Nurse Taylor), Matthew Modine (Dr. Ross), Michael Yurchak (Narrator)

Buy Army of One from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD • DVD • Instant Video

Getting older and getting offered fewer choice projects is simply a part of life for most actors.
Most of those who have experienced success adapt by working less. Others fight it, working more often to make up for the smaller paychecks that come with diminished exposure. Nicolas Cage clearly falls into the latter class. Cage won an Oscar in 1996 and became a consistent draw as leading man almost immediately afterwards. He rode stardom for over a decade straight, eventually scoring the biggest hit of his career in Christmas 2007's National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

It's been downhill since then. With the exception of Knowing (2009) and DreamWorks' animated The Croods (2013), Cage hasn't had a hit since that second National Treasure. The failures were initially high-profile. Big budget flops The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance performed about as poorly as they could, given the brands in play. Meanwhile, other films sold on Cage's name -- Drive Angry, Bangkok Dangerous, Left Behind -- struggled to earn 8-digit grosses despite theater counts in the thousands, all of them saddled with poor reviews to boot. Cage has fallen so completely that it was almost shocking to see him pop up in a supporting role in Oliver Stone's Snowden this fall, his first legitimate wide release theatrical credit in two years.

Most of Cage's latest films may earn a limited contractual theatrical engagement. But they make it to home video in obscurity and breed the low expectations that come with the turf. Army of One, unrelated to the 1993 Dolph Lundgren vehicle, is but the latest of these. Supposedly, it opened in theaters on the first Friday of this month, something six critic reviews on Rotten Tomatoes can seemingly attest to. But there's no box office record and therefore no proof that anyone anywhere bought a ticket to see this film on the big screen.

On paper, Army of One might have seemed more promising than some of the clearly direct-to-video projects Cage signs on to. This one was directed by Larry Charles, the "Seinfeld" writer-producer who helmed Sacha Baron Cohen's 2006 blockbuster Borat, as well as the actor's less warmly-received Brüno and The Dictator. Charles has returned to television in recent years, co-creating FX's single-season "The Comedians." But neither he nor Cage's co-star Russell Brand, who briefly flirted with Hollywood stardom a few years back, could secure any kind of meaningful release for this off-color comedy inspired by a real man's search for Osama bin Laden.

When sailing doesn't work, Gary Faulkner (Nicolas Cage) considers entering Pakistan on the patriotic hang glider behind him in "Army of One."

Cage plays Gary Brooks Faulkner, a ne'er-do-well Coloradoan. A part-time construction worker and full-time patriot, the white bearded and shaggy haired Gary needs dialysis three times a week for his failing kidneys. He crashes on friends' couches until he wears out his welcome. One day at dialysis, the shrilly-voiced and xenophobic Gary sees a vision of God (Brand), who politely commands him to go find Osama bin Laden and capture him alive.

Gary, who has been spending time with his high school crush Marci (Wendi McLendon-Covey) and her mute, cerebral palsy-afflicted daughter (Chenoa Morrison), sees no choice but to follow God's plan. He gets his doctor (Matthew Modine) to write him a check for $1,000 on an engagement ring story. But really, the money is going to a boat that Gary intends to sail to Pakistan. That unsurprisingly doesn't pan out, but Gary does eventually wind up in Pakistan with a samurai sword on his hip. He looks for the hidden Al Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind and gets acclimated with Middle Eastern culture while increasingly being subjected to hallucinations.

On some Nicolas Cage movies, like Vampire's Kiss and The Wicker Man, you wonder if the actor anticipated a bonkers finished product. On Army of One, it is obvious that he knew this was an outrageous farce and tried to do what he could to make it more outrageous. Cage's presence and baggage are enough to push this into the "so bad it's kind of good" domain, but as a viewer you're more laughing at him than with him. The movie wants to laugh at the real Faulkner, who is seen in the end credits (using a voice far less grating than the one Cage adopts). He is a character, certainly, though these days it's tough to define the difference between "character" and "mentally ill." You can laugh at a character, but mental illness isn't such a funny thing.

In "Army of One", Gary Faulkner (Nicolas Cage) receives directions from God (Russell Brand) to go capture Osama Bin Laden alive.

Obviously, Cage and the screenwriting duo behind Draft Day (making this an unlikely follow-up) exaggerate Faulkner's eccentricities for the sake of comedy. They also completely ignore the sadness that would seem to lie in Faulkner's delusions,
instead preferring to imagine things like a cave sword fight with bin Laden and bin Laden touring his home on MTV's "Cribs."

Army of One is never boring, but it's also never smart or endearing. It mocks God, trivializes the atrocities that bin Laden conceived, and pokes fun at the US government's long-fruitless search for the terrorist leader. None of that may be enough to trouble you, but it adds up to an air of negativity that the mostly limp humor isn't enough to cut through.

While this may not be the disappointment that Brüno and The Dictator were, it's on the order of them and very difficult to love. You can somewhat admire the lengths Cage is willing to go to try to reinvent himself and rediscover relevance in the industry (even breaking the fourth wall at one point to discuss "Nic Cage in Con Air"), but that creates a bubble of desperation around him that adds to the sadness that the film chooses not to acknowledge. The movie also falters on basic technical levels; in addition to a host of editing continuity gaffes, green screen prominently reflects in Gary's glasses frequently, something that ought to have been dealt with in post-production.

Counting the Weinstein brothers among its producers, Army of One utilizes the Dimension Films banner once reserved for genre fare. It hits stores today in a DVD and, more surprisingly, the Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack reviewed here.

Army of One: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.39:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled in English
Release Date: November 15, 2016
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Two single-sided discs (1 BD-25 & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($22.98 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Army of One is plagued by some technical issues, as I mentioned above. But those are inherent to the film and not a reflection of the Blu-ray, whose 2.39:1 transfer is clean, sharp, and vibrant. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack is crisp, lively, and above reproach.

Russell Brand performs a scene on green screen in "Making 'Army of One.'" Gary Faulkner (Nicolas Cage) gets a mid-dialysis assignment on the Army of One main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

On both Blu-ray and DVD, Army of One
is joined by "Making Army of One" (7:07), a standard featurette that collects comments and features some behind-the-scenes footage showing the real Faulkner advising and apparently accepting the production.

The discs open with a trailer for Wild Oats. It is not accessible by menu and Army of One's own trailer isn't included at all.

That menu loops a montage of clips. The disc doesn't support bookmarks, but does resume unfinished playback.

The full-color Blu-ray and silver DVD share a slipcovered eco-friendly keepcase with your Digital HD UltraViolet code.

Gary Faulkner (Nicolas Cage) can't believe his eyes when he sees Osama Bin Laden on MTV's "Cribs." Spoiler: it's just a dream.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Army of One is better than some bad Nicolas Cage movies, because it knows it's ludicrous and tries to run with that. That and the sight of Cage embracing madness at least keep things kind of interesting, but you'll still probably end up disliking the movie and the story it tells. This Blu-ray combo pack is fine, but few will ever want to watch the movie more than once and many will regret even one viewing.

Buy Army of One from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
New to Disc: Nine Lives • The Sea of Trees • Indignation
Nicolas Cage: Drive Angry • Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans • Peggy Sue Got Married • Next • Season of the Witch • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance
Russell Brand: Arthur (2011) • Paradise • Hop • Bedtime Stories • Rock of Ages • Despicable Me
Wendi McLendon-Covey: Reno 911! The Complete Series • Blended • Over Her Dead Body • A Merry Friggin' Christmas • Think Like a Man Too
A Hologram for the King • The Cobbler • Zero Dark Thirty • Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden
The Brothers Grimsby • Puerto Ricans in Paris • Evan Almighty • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Directed by Larry Charles: Brüno • The Dictator | From the Writers: Draft Day

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Reviewed November 15, 2016.



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