Reviews written by registered user
|2 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This review is for the people without a political or religious axe to
grind who are just wondering if this is a good movie. Before discussing
the film itself, the first thing that the viewer needs to be aware of
is the film's chronology which is easily misunderstood and not
described particularly well. To explain why, it is first helpful to
discuss some of the plot. The main narrative follows Bob Revere who is
an Easy Rider-esque veteran of an unidentified war. Bob is a pharmacist
by trade and also serves as the mayor of Mount Columbus. Within that
narrative are flashbacks (accomplished through old video footage,
recollections, and visualizations) introducing Bob's son Thomas to the
The way the flashbacks were presented, Thomas got married soon after high school and enlisted in the Army at the age of 20. Unfortunately, he never made it home and left behind his pregnant wife and parents to grieve for him. After the funeral, Thomas' wife left Mount Columbus and moved to California with Thomas' infant son Christian. This made an already emotionally fragile Bob feel abandoned and more alienated. Fourteen years later, Kari returns to Mount Columbus with a teenage Christian and Bob's unresolved issues regarding Kari, Christian, and his son's death.
All this exposition compromises the first 13 minutes of the film and they are crucial to understanding the universe within which the film is set. On my initial viewing I assumed that all the flashbacks took place fourteen years ago and that the main narrative occurs in the present day. As a result of this assumption, the film comes off as a heavy-handed and lacking any form of subtlety. However I couldn't shake off the feeling I had missed something and I decided to re-watch the movie trying to figure out if I had missed something.
During my re-watch I realized that I had made an error which changed my perception of the film. The error was that the film's flashbacks were not meant to have been in the past. The film does a rather poor job of conveying this and that's why the flashbacks are easily confused as having occurred fourteen years ago. Instead the entire main narrative which tells Bob's story takes place in a future fourteen years from the present that saw an extreme secularization of America that excised religion from all public places and had a zero tolerance policy against any entanglement between religion and government. As such the film should be thought of as existing in some not too distant dystopian future giving it more in common with science fiction than with faith based films.
This approach gave me a new appreciation for the film, but this new appreciation did little to hide some of the films short comings. Firstly, the script does very little to ease you into the universe that these characters reside in. The characters talk about the "good old days" and how their freedoms were gradually eroded away in the name of political correctness, but the script does not even attempt give even a rudimentary explanation of exactly how this happened and instead chooses to leave it to the imagination or paranoia of the viewer. Personally the lack of explanation came off as lazy writing and that should have been addressed in some way.
Secondly, the direction is uninspired and can be compared to what you would expect from a Lifetime film. The most I could say was that the director made sure he got proper coverage for every scene to give the editors enough to work with. However with that said, there are a few shots in the film that take full advantage of the location and show off the beautiful Colorado landscape and the wonder of its mountains. Those bits of cinematography are really well shot, but few and far between.
Thirdly the acting is a very mixed bag. The acting highlights of the film are Marshall R. Teague as Bob Revere, Fred Williamson as Warren Hammerschmidt, Jennifer O'Neill as Bob's wife Dottie, Hunter Gomez as Christian Revere, and Jenna Boyd as Maddie Rogers. All five were competent enough in their craft that they made their clunky dialogue sound somewhat natural. With that said, Nikki Novak who played Kari and Rusty Joiner who played Greg (Thomas' best friend now pining for Kari's affection) were both horrible in every way and had no chemistry. The fact that a significant portion of the film focuses on their romantic subplot hurts the movie in the long run. Some of the minor characters will equally make you question the experience of the casting director.
Overall, this is a family film and the worst thematic elements on display are some war images and brief smoking. Ultimately though, whether or not you find Last Ounce of Courage entertaining depends completely on your willingness to overlook its flaws and withstand its lack of subtlety. However, I cannot stress enough that you must approach it as a science fiction film exploring the dystopian genre. Doing so really puts the film into perspective and makes the actions of the characters and the universe they populate seem a bit more rational and grounded.
As a side, I have a friend that asked me to include a final little tidbit about the film: As a disclaimer, I don't drink alcohol but I know some of you like to play drinking games. For those of you that do, run out and buy the DVD. Last Ounce of Courage gives you the ability to play along by taking a drink every time one of the characters says the word "freedom" in the film, two drinks for every time either Bill O'Reilly or Ronald Reagan say it, and three drinks for any time someone says the word "Constitution" or quotes it correctly. Whoever is left standing at the end of the film or has not vomited wins.
In life, just as in boxing there are rules that one must abide by.
Despite knowing these rules, Spike Fumo chooses to march to the beat of
his own drum. Unfortunately, at times the beat is out of synch with the
tune of reality.
Sasha Mitchell plays Spike Fumo; a native Bensonhurst Brooklynite whose grasp out seeds his reach. His father is serving a prison term for a crime he took the fall on to protect a local mob boss. His mother has taken up with another woman in her husbands absence and moved her lover into the house. Despite tall this, Spike has aspirations of becoming a boxing champion/mobster and thinks his Italian heritage is enough to carry him on the road to both. And such begins Spike of Bensonhurst. Paul Morrissy of the Andy Warhol fame directs this picture but try not to hold that against the movie. To his credit, during filming; Sasha Mitchell almost broke his back trying to carry the entire project on his shoulders with little to no avail. But, if you pause step back and look at the story line as a whole; the plot is amazing.
Spike is a club fighter who tries to impress local mob boss Baldo Cacetti by throwing fights. When he sees that is getting him nowhere fast, he quickly decides to get Baldo's daughter Angel pregnant and carve out a niche for himself. As a result, Spike gets him exiled from Bensonhurst. He is forced to move to Red Hook with Bandana (a fellow boxer) and his Puerto Rican family. Things then really start to spiral out of control when Spike falls for Bandana's sister, India and gets her pregnant as well. He finds himself between a rock and a hard place with a pregnant girl on each side pushing both in on him. If William Shakespeare were a filmmaker, this is the type of film he'd be making! It has everything: familial drama, sly comedy, prearranged marriages, unrequited love, crime, and a refreshingly flawed lead character who for once does not have all the answers and is free to make his own mistakes. (But trust me, The Bard would have done a far better job than some washed-up reject from Andy Warhol's factory.)
I believe that this film went wrong in 2 places. First off, there wasn't enough of an on-screen relationship developed between Spike and India. In fact, it seemed that Spike's furlough into Red Hook as a whole was more delegated to comic relief status when it could have been very revealing to Spike's character as a whole. I never felt I knew if Spike was involved with India because he just wanted a piece or if he actually found comfort in her arms. In one scene, Spike stared at India from bar of the club they were at while she was dancing with another man, and you knew that Spike felt a sense of guilt but you never know why.
Secondly, this film without a doubt possesses the worst soundtrack of all time. I'd rather listen to a tape an endless tape of Gilbert Godfried reading the phone book than to pop the soundtrack to this bad boy in my CD player. Trust me, mere language cannot convey how bad the music is. All in all, Spike of Bensonhurst is a film that deserves viewing. It's a film that is a dying breed. Part Anti-Rocky and part Shakespearean tragedy that is largely uneven and possess lots of the drawbacks of both. What it does possess, are enough genuine moments throughout to make you realize that his could have been so much more. Don't listen to any of the negative reviews on this for this film that other people have written. As a matter of fact, you can pretty much throw the positive ones out the window also and make up your own mind.