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Live Free or Die

In the small, quiet towns of New Hampshire, there's not much a fellow can do to make a name for himself. John Rudgate knows this, but he doesn't care. He wants people to remember him even if everything they remember is a lie. Live Free or Die (2006) takes its title from New Hampshire's rather dour state motto, exemplifying the hardcore, no-nonsense persona that Rudgate (Aaron Stanford) wants to establish. Going by the nickname "Rugged," he commits minor frauds and negligible acts of vandalism, and then exaggerates them into a vast criminal lifestyle when he brags to his fellow citizens. (He also takes credit for the town's one unsolved murder, even though there's no way he actually did it.) Rugged is a coward and a wimp, but he has the mouthy attitude of Al Capone. He partners himself with Lagrand (Paul Schneider), a goony, dim-witted admirer who is in many ways his opposite: Lagrand wants to commit some cool crimes because he's too dumb to realize what the true consequences would be, while Rugged is smart enough to know the repercussions and thus wants to avoid actually doing anything wrong. But both men want to be feared and admired. However, after they poison someone and the guy winds up dead, Lagrand thinks it's awesome while Rugged is terrified that he may have actually killed someone. After all, he thought it would only make the guy sick. Written and directed by "Seinfeld" scribes Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin, Live Free or Die is a lukewarm comedy that gets more mileage out of its rather simple premise — craven wannabe tries to maintain fearsome reputation without actually committing any crimes — than anyone might expect. Aaron Stanford doesn't give Rugged depth, exactly, but the character doesn't become tiresome either, while Paul Schneider is enjoyably loopy as Lagrand, playing him somewhere between gay and Will Ferrell. Nonetheless, the film never rises above average. There are many small laughs, two or three big ones, and a lot of wide open space in between wherein the story ambles along unremarkably, just like life in a lot of New Hampshire does.

ThinkFilm's DVD release of Live Free or Die features an anamorphic transfer (1.78:1) that looks fairly good, along with both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 audio options. Extras include an alternate ending set five years later "somewhere in Canada" that's amusing, a low-budget "making-of" spot that captures the movie's anarchic spirit (6 min.); a brief blooper reel, and two funny deleted scenes. Finally, directors Kavet and Robin, along with stars Stanford and Schneider, collaborate on a commentary track, where they are joined by a couple of fictional characters being voiced by, it appears, Kavet and Schneider. The commentary is silly, self-aware, and perhaps even funnier than the film itself. Keep-case.
—Eric D. Snider



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