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It's not the crime, it's the cover-up. In small-town, hard-scrabble New Hampshire, foul-mouthed all-talk slacker John "Rugged" Rudgate fancies himself a criminal. When a local plumber stares him down at a pub, Rugged vows revenge, pouring brake fluid in the man's water supply. When the man dies from unrelated causes, Rugged and his side-kick, the even dimmer Jeff, try to cover up what they think is murder. One bad decision begets another. Written by
Aaron Stanford plays a guy named John Ruddgate. He's a wannabe gangster who just can't seem to pull it off no matter how hard he tries. Enter Lagrand(Paul Schneider), a mentally handicapped man who really enjoys John's company. In reality though, John needs Lagrand a lot more than Lagrand needs him. John tries to impress Lagrand, but somehow, everything goes wrong in all the right ways. Both of them are completely oblivious of their situation, and all they want is to put an end to it. Meanwhile, two cops investigate a situation that seems to involve John, but Officer Putney(Michael Rapaport) has more going on in his personal life than it appears, and it looks like it might cause some distress. The film takes place in New Hampshire, but it appears to be filmed in Rutland, Vermont. Since both places look similar, I guess it doesn't matter.
The film is great. What makes it great is it's originality, it's ever twisting plot, and the fact that the characters refuse to be stereotypes. I love it when a refreshing movie like this comes out that is just enjoyable and uncomplicated. This is basically just the kind of film that I can easily get into because of how much it draws you in. It's just a breath of fresh air. It's an even bigger breath of fresh air than TRANSAMERICA or A MIDNIGHT CLEAR. There is just so much to enjoy about it.
Aaron Stanford has proved in the past that he can be very dopey(TADPOLE)and very rugged(HILLS HAVE EYES remake), and now he shows a side of himself that manages to be realistic but true to life at the same time. He has a really believable performance as a guy who just wants to be remembered for something bad and has absolutely nothing to lose, but gets very irritated when things are ruined for him. And Paul Schneider... WOW. He somehow pulls off a very low key performance that has exactly the same effect as if it were over the top He is just fascinating to watch. He has such a unique screen presence in this film. I swear, you could pause the movie and he would still look awkward no matter how he's standing or what he's doing. Even when he holds still, he pulls off being a person who has a mental disability. It's just really subtle, and yet so hypnotic. I was impressed.
So overall, if you're looking for something light and easy to get into, I'd highly recommend LIVE FREE OR DIE. It may not be life changing, but damn. It is damn fine independent cinema. It's really wonderful. Check it out.
Rated R for pervasive language including sex references.
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