Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Army of One

The true story of Gary Faulkner is bizarre beyond words. Equipped with little more than a samurai sword, Faulkner embarked on a “mission from God” to capture Osama bin Laden – a quest which required several trips to the most volatile regions of Pakistan. Of course, he failed. But he became something of a legend and it was only a matter of time until this wonderfully ridiculous tale made it to the big screen. Who better to portray this quirky patriot than Nicolas Cage – the sort of man you could imagine embarking on vengeful quests with a samurai sword in his spare time anyway...

Nicolas Cage is an enormously talented actor. No, this is not a joke. It may very well be one of the most controversial statements in Hollywood, but I wholeheartedly believe it. Yes, his career has been a little inconsistent since his 1995 Oscar win (Cage is an Oscar winner, accept it) and it’s true he has shown up in a great quantity of shit films with absolutely zero effort. But sometimes, he likes to put in a bit of work and remind us that he does have some talent tucked away…

This film absolutely belongs to Cage, giving us his most unhinged and off-the-wall performance in years as the arguably deranged Gary Faulkner. He’s almost unrecognisable in the film, with a very unique (and not exactly accurate) vocal delivery, while sporting long white locks and a “great big bushy beard”! He’s clearly enjoying himself in this larger than life role and it certainly makes a change from all of those preposterously one-dimensional thriller roles he’s given us over the last several years. If we’re going by Kermode’s 6-laugh-test here, Cage makes sure that milestone is passed within the first 20 minutes. Outside of Cage, there isn’t much to report in the cast. The Goldbergs’ Wendi McLendon-Covey plays it completely straight as Faulkner’s love interest, while Russell Brand tries to make it all about him – understandable really, as he’s playing God. His humour didn’t work in the film, and his presence was jarring.

But the humour of the film comes so thick and fast that even these uncomfortably unfunny Russell Brand appearances are quickly recovered by some unhinged Cage shenanigans. A lot of the film’s humour doesn’t come from traditional jokes or punchlines, but rather the premise itself. Cage does portray Faulkner as something of an eccentric madman and brings a lot of laughs just from his performance alone, but it’s the circumstance that creates the most humour – the mere idea of this nutter going to Pakistan with a samurai sword in an attempt to capture Osama. You simply could not make it up.

Larry Charles, comedy genius behind some of Seinfeld’s finest (and darkest) moments, is behind the camera here and gives the film a somewhat professional feel. The film doesn’t seem like your typical straight-to-DVD Cage shit, and Rajiv Joseph & Scott Rothman’s screenplay keeps the pace moving along quickly with a lot of laughs and, surprisingly, some heart. Gary Faulkner is portrayed as something of an unpredictable nutjob, but he’s given some depth and not always made the butt of the joke. And funnily enough, he’s still out there today. The film ends by saying that his cut of the film’s profits was going to be used to fund his future adventures – he doesn’t believe Osama bin Laden was ever killed, and he’s adamant he will find him. Bless…

Army of One was an unexpected delight. It was a perfect role for Cage to go full crazy, while also reveal his acting chops to us once again. I don’t care what anyone says, I’ll stand by this as a solid Nicolas Cage performance. The film is funny and utterly entertaining, and with this current obsession of being inspired by the ‘hidden figures’ of history, Gary Faulkner is a crazy and relatable hero we can all get behind.

Army of One is Nicolas Cage’s finest film in years. I know that’s not saying much, but trust me – this one is a lot of fun.


Sam Love

Army of One at CeX

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