Army of One

Year: 2017
Production Co: CondeNast Entertainment
Director: Larry Charles
Writer: Rajiv Joseph/Scott Rothman
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Russell Brand, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Denis O'Hare, Rainn Wilson

It wasn't so much the conceit of this movie that made me want to watch it, it was the trailer. Yes, the story of an unhinged, possibly scary guy who decides God has called on him to travel alone to Pakistan to find Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice is worthy of a movie, especially as it's based on a true story.

Some of the lines, as well as Nic Cage looking funnier than he has in years (intentionally so, for a change) convinced me, but unfortunately – as is so often the case – the trailer had all the funny lines in the movie. It's worth a few chuckles but little else.

Cage is Gary, a self-involved, possibly delusional and sometime handyman drifter who receives a vision from God (in the form of Russell Brand), commanding him to travel to Pakistan to bring the architect of 9/11 to justice. After buying a sword on a home shopping show, acquiring a boat he promptly wrecks on the coast of Mexico because he has no idea how to sail, he's finally off.

It seems to be a little bit of a satire of the American attitude to the rest of the world, Gary crashing through the social mores and local customs like a bull in a china shop with no idea how offensive or out of place he is.

But where he'd usually just be a local irritant and make little to no impact on global affairs, two local CIA operatives get wind of Gary's plan and wonder if he's an asset rather than a threat.

It also stars Wendi McLendon-Covey (Bridesmaids) as old schoolmate Marci with whom he reconnects romantically and who has a mute daughter, and his constant absence on his mission puts a strain on what might be the first and only really good thing in his life.

And that's the problem. The entire Pakistan/bin Laden part of the story might just be foil to say something deeper about mental illness. If it is there's too much of it and his relationship with Marci doesn't really go anywhere. If it's really about the crazy guy having (or imagining having) visions from God, the relationships back home are kind of redundant and don't really change the character (s) or teach them anything.

All that aside, it's your first chance to see Cage actually act in a long, long time. Sure he's putting on a silly voice, walking with a silly stance and mugging far too much for the camera but he's finally playing a guy his age, his ridiculous hair finally makes sense for his character and he looks like he's enjoying himself for the first time in forever – he certainly had more fun than you will.

The theme might be that he's as lovable as he is unstoppable in his delusions, that his heart's in the right place and that the mentally ill have as much to offer society as anyone, but it also might just be a narrative mess that doesn't know what to do with itself. As one review online summed up beautifully; 'as interesting as it is stupid'.

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