A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Army of One is a comedy based on the true story of an American eccentric obsessed with the idea that God wants him to capture Osama bin Laden. Far from a heroic role model, Gary Faulkner drinks, uses mind-altering substances, is jobless, homeless, and loud, as well as patriotic and sometimes a charming and resourceful ex-felon. But, above all, he is always outrageous. Following the "word of God," he undertakes outlandish adventures that move him around the globe on his quest to bring down the World's Most Wanted Man. Comic action includes some brandishing of knives and swords, a scuffle in which the main weapon is a vacuum cleaner, some accidents (hang glider crashes, boat mishaps), and near hits from a sniper's rifle. Profanity flows, top to bottom; frequent use of "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," "ass," and other curses. While there's no nudity or overt sexuality, a couple kisses, begins foreplay, and refers to their intimate relationship. There's mention of and a brief glimpse of a man masturbating under blankets. Marijuana and hashish are smoked; characters are stoned and/or drunk in several scenes. It's an oddball movie, with a daredevil protagonist and a no-holds-barred performance by Nicolas Cage. Mature teens only.
What's the story?
Gary Faulkner (Nicolas Cage), a loud, brash, opinionated underdog, is frustrated as ARMY OF ONE opens. No job, no girl, no home, no money (except for disability checks he receives for his ongoing kidney issues), he's at the mercy of the few friends who stand by him. What's more, he's obsessed with the fact that nearly a decade has gone by since the events of 9/11, and no one has been able to find Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attack. Of course, there are reports of sightings and lots of conjecture, but the U.S. has been stymied for far too long. Watching televised reports only makes him angry So when, suddenly and unexpectedly, a bearded man materializes, speaks directly to Gary, and presents himself as God (Russell Brand), Gary is listening. When God explains that He's chosen Gary to be his emissary and delegated him to find the unfindable leader of Al Qaeda, Gary is intrigued, then fully devoted to the cause. Finding Bin Laden is his quest, his impossible dream, his reason for being. In the midst of his far-fetched plans for a dubious journey, Gary is reunited with Marci (Wendy McLendon-Covey), the girl he loved in high school. It complicates things, especially when she takes him home to meet the niece she's raising as her own. But not for long. Bin Laden awaits. Pakistan is calling to him. The chase is on.
Is it any good?
Though it's more amusing than funny, more bizarre than quirky, and presents a real-life oddball who doesn't merit 93 minutes of an audience's time, Nicolas Cage almost makes this loony film work. He's successfully channeled the real Gary Faulkner's peculiar persona, and he's fully committed himself to this role, the first after a long acting drought in which he's starred only in forgettable shoot-em-ups and crime stories. Army of One is an uneven movie. The first half with its budding, sweet romance between two lost souls and Faulkner's early efforts to get his mission going is promising. When Gary gets to Pakistan, however, it becomes repetitious and ludicrous. How long can one man walk the streets hoping to have an important clue fall out of the sky? It's a good thing the filmmakers didn't tell the whole story, because Gary Faulkner made the trip to Pakistan more than a dozen times.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the profanity in Army of One. In movies like this one, does it help define the characters and contribute to the overall tone of the story? How? Is the language funny, revealing, distracting, or a little of each?
Why do you think the filmmakers choose to make a movie about Gary Faulkner? Did the writers/director and team have a specific attitude about him? Were they laughing at him? With him? By the movie's end, what was your opinion of him?
For a short while in 2010, the real Gary Faulkner was famous; he appeared on talk shows, morning shows, news programs. Did Gary earn his recognition? Should he have been notable person? What does that tell you about the "celebrity culture" in which we live?
- On DVD or streaming: November 15, 2016
- Cast: Nicolas Cage, Russell Brand, Wendy McLendon-Covey
- Director: Larry Charles
- Studios: Anchor Bay Entertainment, The Weinstein Company
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs
- Run time: 93 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and drug use
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.