Monday, November 25, 2013

PROPAGANDA REVIEW: “Last Ounce of Courage” (2012)

That one dude from “Roadhouse” takes on Fred “The Hammer” Williamson…in a metaphorical battle over the meaning of Christmas? Well, this is going to suck plenty…


Perhaps you’ve heard of this thing called "the War on Christmas" before. In short, it’s the belief held by many (predominantly) right-leaning Christians in the United States that “secular” (read: liberal, Muslim, homosexual, Marxist, vegetarian, feminist and atheist) contingencies are joining forces to eliminate the celebration of Jesus’ birthday from the national consciousness.

Now I know what you’re thinking: man, wouldn’t it be great if somebody out there made a really hokey, low-budget movie transforming this symbolic struggle into a literal one? Well, thankfully, somebody did, and the end dividend is “Last Ounce of Courage,” a 2012 straight-to-DVR offering that is arguably the finest Christian persecution revenge fantasy ever filmed. As an added bonus, it even manages to throw in some syrupy nationalism too, and the real kicker? The main villain of the film is none other than Fred “The Motherfuckin’ Hammer” Williamson, playing, of all things, the HEAD of the American Civil Liberties Union!

Before the movie even begins, you know you’re going to get a stern proselytizin’, due in part to a.) the name of the production company being “HELLFIGHTER,” and b.) a pre-credits audio snippet from Ronnie Reagan. We get a brief video montage of two lovelorn, heterosexual kids monkeying around with a digital camera, which is followed up by an extended sequence in which a dude in Patriot Guard regalia zips around in a bitchin’ denim jacket in the mountains. Meanwhile, really, really melodramatic music plays, and it doesn’t let up…really, at any point in the movie.

From there, we cut to a flashback scene where the biker (played by Marshall Teague, who is probably best known for his role as  Jimmy in “Roadhouse”) reflects on his son leaving his wife (who, of course, is preggers) for combat over in some suspiciously unnamed foreign conflict. A really, really cheap-looking “war montage” follows suit, the baby gets born and LOLOOPS! Here come the guys in military regalia and the folded flag, with some very unfortunate news about their eldest kid (for those of you unaccustomed to American military traditions: that means he got killed.)

Huh...I wonder what the political leanings of the filmmakers are?

After the funeral sequence, Teague tosses a flag on his bike in SUPER SLOW MOTION, to signify…I don’t know, some shit. And then we jump ahead 14 years later, where the bad ass biker dad is now a pharmacist who likes to (illegally?) treat the gunshot wounds of surprisingly civil biker gang members, whose legion includes a midget and the ever-present accompaniment of the shittiest sounding public domain rock and roll music you’ve ever heard.

His grandson is now middle school age, and he and his mom are over for Thanksgiving. He rummages through an old trunk and finds some old videotapes, and the family gathers round to watch some old Christmas celebrations. The kid ask his grand pappy how come people nowadays don’t celebrate like that no more, and his response is because there are people out there that are “trying to get laws passed to ban Christmas.” And also, the elderly couple has another kid, but because she did stuff “they didn’t agree with,“ she’s basically disowned. And in case you are wondering: no, the movie never tells us what she did to earn her parents’ scorn, either.

So Teague has a flashback about this old truck he and his son were working on, and his widowed daughter-in-law flirts with the local cop and on his very first day at school, her kid ends up being sent to the principal’s office because the Gestapo hall monitors found a bible in his locker. The janitor tells Teague that they are a bunch of cowards for not standing up to the principal, so Teague goes in there again and asks the principal if there are any actual school policies forbidding the bible in school and he says no and then everybody goes home to watch “The O’Reilly Factor.”

So the grandkid (whose name, creatively, I might add, is actually “Christian”)  and his platonic next door girlfriend peruse through some old Christmas decorations and decide it is time to STRIKE BACK against the forces of liberalism by hanging up stockings and eating candy canes and stuff. We get some more romantic interludes between the widow and the cop, and Teague decides he’s had enough to so he hops on his bike (with an American flag emblazoned with a crucifix pole ornament) and rides all the way to the mayor’s office…because he’s also the mayor of the town? Well, shit, then.

They call him Boss...boss of an American Civil Liberties Union expy.

While going on a rant about school policies, Teague says he’s going to bring Christmas back all by himself, goddamnit, by dragging a bunch of old decorations out of the city storage shed and putting them up all over his office. Some bikers (who are drinking SODA down at the local, PG-rated saloon) see the mayor on TV and hoot and holler, but the head of the ACLU (which, of course, is never mentioned by that namesake) sees it, sucks on a cigar, and concocts a secret plan to shut down a local veteran’s home due to church and state separation violations.

The kids decide to sabotage their “secularized” Christmas play, and Teague and the Hammer stare each other down at a press conference. “Our freedoms are being taken away from us,” Teague declares…so at this point, you know this shit is on, and hard.

Teague criticizes local retailers and radio stations for not playing Christmas music, the widow and the cop go out on a date, grandma is doing some work down at the local mission and what do you know, the health department is closing them down because they're violating the separation of church and state, which the heroes of the movie claim doesn’t exist in the slightest. We get some more “comedy” involving a Euro-trash sounding play director (who can’t even maintain his pseudo-German accent), and then Teague sets up a giant Christmas tree on the lawn of City Hall, and makes the bold declaration that the ACLU is repping “anti-Americanism.” The Hammer gets a court order to have the tree taken down, and ever the gentle Christian, Teague responds by threatening to punch him for doing things orderly and legally. The kids practice for “Silent Night, Wintry Night,” and then they all pledge on grandpa’s medal of honor to royally fuck up their school’s performance…for Jesus.

At a Christmas party, a mysterious agent yanks the City Hall Christmas Tree down…in slow-motion, of course. Soon, the local LIBERAL MEDIA reports a story about Teague’s hitherto unacknowledged missteps in ‘Nam, and he loses his job as mayor as a result. Teague then decides to give it to ‘em good by dragging a crucifix out and affixing it to the top of the shuttered mission…with aide from the soda-sipping bikers, of course.

He knows it's the right thing to do, abusing his position of governmental power to focus on sticking it to the "secularists" instead of, you know, actually running the town and stuff. 

As the townsfolk gather, Teague says the cross is a symbol of “religious freedom,” which includes atheism…somehow. He spiels about what the founding fathers believed (or, at least, what HE thinks they would believe) and says he can’t let their “enemies take one more inch” from them, as a military beat drums up in the background. He talks about all the people that have died serving their country in the name of religion, because, surely, every single soldier that’s ever died in the U.S. military HAD to have been a Christian. Every last one of them.

Not surprisingly, Teague gets arrested for his theatrics, but before he goes to the slammer, he hands his grandson his Medal of Honor. Greatly moved by the display, one of the TV reporters suddenly rejects liberalism, and storms off set to spend time with her family. And then, the Christmas play shenanigans begin, with the kids locking the director in a broom closet before the grandkid does a Tea Party spiel and shows everybody footage of his dad getting blown up in the Middle East. The janitor than uses physical force to threaten the school principal, he waves a flag around, and everybody cheers before singing “Silent Night, Holy Night.” Oh, and Teague was privy to all of this, because some bum in the cell beside him let him listen to a radio broadcast on his Walkman. But when Teague is released, his family tells them the play WASN’T broadcast on the radio…my goodness, that was no bum in the jailhouse with him, that was a real-life angel!

And as another miracle, their long-lost daughter returns, and says she’s sorry for doing whatever she did to make them toss her out of her life and stuff. The Hammer asks the cop that’s been dating the widow why he doesn’t arrest some of the townsfolk, and he replies by saying “I thought your organization was against prison overcrowding?” LOL, take that, efforts to reduce disproportionate minority contact in the nation’s justice systems!

And we get one more quote from Ronald Reagan before the end credits roll, and a final dedication to the 1.3 million “patriots” who have all died fighting in America’s struggles for geopolitical stratagem and energy interests…I mean, “Jesus” and “Freedom.”  A montage of earlier clips from the film play above the credits, while some shit singer screeches “This is Freedom!” over and over again. Oh, and in case you were wondering, this film was given the full blessing of one Charles Norris, so you know it’s good and godly and stuff.

Of course he approved it...after all, it sucks

The film was released by Rocky Mountain Pictures, the same firm that gave us “2016: Obama’s America.” It’s marketing was handled by Veritas Entertainment (one of the few publishers out there that I can think of that actually have a “values” statement on their website), and it has something to do with StandUSA, which is some Astroturf  Moral Majority-type revival that stands up for everything Jesus did, like lax gun laws and suspension of welfare payments to the impoverished. Needless to say, this was a stew prepared by a many conservative hand, and the finished product is about as fine a goulash of “seriously?” and “what the hell?” as you’d imagine it to be.

In terms of entertainment, you’re not getting a whole lot here, unless you take a particular pleasure from watching ham-fisted filmmakers make incredibly ham-fisted efforts to drive home ham-fisted messages. This whole movie, in short, feels like a pork knuckle being shoved down your throat, a big, fat, indelicate agitprop dinner that’s about as sure-handed as the grip of a methamphetamine user. It’s clear the producers of “Last Ounce of Courage” had a distinct message they wanted to send with the picture, but the gigantic problem therein was  that they didn’t know how to cobble a movie around that super-blunt message whatsoever. The acting is inferior, the direction is subpar and the script is particularly painful. In essence, the filmmakers could have delivered the gist of this movie by climbing atop a pharmacy and shouting aloud “Liberals hate Jesus!” through a megaphone; and the fact that they had to resort to making this overlong turd of a DVD really makes you wish these folks would’ve invested in a step ladder and some extra batteries to spread the good cheer instead.

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