It’s rare to see a B-movie with an actor that clearly deserves better. Ellen Hollman isn’t a household name, yet — she’s got an undisclosed role in The Matrix 4 that could launch her into the stratosphere — but she’s so far and away the most impressive aspect of Army of One it feels like this is kinda beneath her.
For its numerous flaws, including a shaky plot and questionable supporting performances, the important thing that Director Stephen Durham does right is making Hollman look like a complete and total action hero badass. Hollman had the physicality, the onscreen presence and the ease of shooting off bullets and quips is an unintended commentary on the act she does in carrying the film.
In your standard action revenge thriller, the hapless victim wanders into trouble and after barely surviving, carves out a wickedly enjoyable path of vengeance. That’s not really the case here. Screenwriters Mary Ann Barnes, David Dittlinger, Durham and Hollman unintentionally make the victims the idiots inviting trouble.
Brenner (Hollman, Spartacus) and her police officer husband, Dillion (Matt Passmore) go on a camping trip after Dillion has a near death encounter on the job. In one of those only in the movie scenes, a bunch of good ol boys pull up to her car with the ringleader, Butch (Gary Kasper), suggesting Brenner ditch Dillion and go with a real man. Dillion and Brenner’s second encounter with Butch and his crew at the local diner feels a bit too convenient. And there’s something about the kindly diner owner, Mama (Geraldine Singer), that feels a bit too suspicious.
The next time is clearly on Brenner and Dillion though. They avoid a deputy’s warning to stay on the trails to avoid the hostile locals and they squat in a complex they stumble onto to get out of the rain.
Showing a surprising lack of respect for the property, Dillion and Brenner naturally do what people do when in a strange location that clearly belongs to someone else — they hook up on the couch. Goldilocks has nothing on these two. That’d be enough, but Brenner and Dillion decide to start exploring the compound before finding a weapons cache run by Mama and her goons.
So it’s not that shocking when Butch and the crew deal with the trespassers in an overly aggressive manner. Again, it’s hard to drum up much sympathy when Brenner and Dillion had ample opportunities to avoid this inevitable fate. Somehow, Brenner’s Ranger training allows her to survive a closeup gunshot wound. Dillion isn’t so lucky though and now Brenner is out for payback.
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It should be that simple. Hollman is a one-woman show providing all the film’s best moments and impressive execution in the action scenes so it’s endlessly frustrating that the script spends so much time on Mama and her crew. They’re hardly the most charismatic and engaging set of villains with non-distinct personalities and skills. Give Mama credit for one thing — for all the redneck implications she actually has some diversity in her crew.
Singer is actually an effective villain as she carries an aura of menace and makes Mama the kind of dominating personality that could emotionally bully people into following her. Still, it’s not like Mama’s going to have some big physical confrontation at the end with Brenner.
There’s another subplot of Mama’s crew apparently keeping some women as servants they round up to do the domestic work around the compound. Brenner’s rescue attempts feels like it’s straight out of the Rambo playbook with worst results. This was a better idea on paper than the execution as the rescued women barely register or have time to make much of a presence onscreen.
The limited budget is largely evident when daytime scenes transition into sunset or sunrise depending on the camera angle giving away the fact these segments were shot at different times. A few of the action scenes have some herky jerky editing to accommodate the death blows or shots and they could have been a lot tighter.
Army of One has a lot of problems, but its star isn’t one of them. Hollman makes this passable and enough of a guilty pleasure — when she’s onscreen — to make it worth checking out. But Hollman definitely should be trending to a higher quality star vehicle in the future.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Photo Credit: Uncork’d Entertainment