Well, what do you know? Mere days after I saw USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, Nicolas Cage is back with another direct-to-streaming movie; fact-based comedy Army of One. And contrasting his rather subdued, straightforward performance there, here is in full-on crazy mode with one of his weirdest performances of recent years, bearded, scraggly haired, and adopting a bizarre nasal accent, his motor-mouthed work here is another entry into the unironic ‘crazy-Cage’ repertoire.
In the Army of One, Cage plays the real-life Gary Faulkner, an unemployed handyman in Colorado who, in 2004 believed that he received a vision from God telling him to go to Pakistan and capture Osama Bin Laden, and then actually set out to achieve this.
When I first hear about this movie, I wrote a snarky tweet about how it could be my personal movie version of the unstoppable force/immovable object conundrum, as I’ll watch Cage in absolutely anything but here he’s co-starring with one of my absolute least favourite performers; Russell Brand, who play God in Cage’s visions. Brand of course just plays it as himself as he seems incapable of doing anything else, and having him act right next to Cage in far-out mode only emphasises his total lack of range further. He’s insufferable as usual but mercifully only appears a few brief times.
Directed by Borat‘s Larry Charles, who’s career has been in steep decline since then, Army of One does at times feel as if we’re being asked at laugh at a man with mental problems, though the film informs us that Faulkner does not possess any, but in his initial attempts at get to Pakistan he’s so poorly prepared it’s surprising he even gets out his front door.Although we already know that he ultimately succeeds ingetting there, the film never quite explains how he manages this.
Upon arrival the film shifts more into a sort-of fish-out-of-water comedy, with the enthusiastic yet oblivious Cage being amiable if confounding to the locals. The stranger-than-fiction concept of Army of One is wacky enough to understand why Charles thought it was worth making into a movie, but here it proves to not be enough to sustain even a 90-minute running time really. As this sometimes baffling, sometimes grating comedy runs out of steam relatively quickly, especially as we know that Faulkner is not actually going to even come close to succeeding in his mission. Rainn Wilson shows up as a secret service agent late in the game but doesn’t get much to do in more of an extended cameo (though there is a “Timothy Dalton is the best Bond” shout-out that I appreciated).
Wierdly, the best aspect of this film is probably the scenes of Faulkner bonding with his girlfriend and her handicapped daughter, which possess an earnest sweetness completely absent from the rest of the film’s more bizarre goings on. Otherwise, Army of One is a comedy with a questionable concept where the jokes miss far more than they hit. Bar one terrible attempt at a meta joke though, Cage is always fun to watch in one of his most unhinged performances. Despite it’s decidedly non-generic premise, this is probably still going to end-up on the pile of forgettable DTV Cage movies for completists only.