‘Last Ounce’ likely to win few converts

09/14/2012 8:00 AM

09/14/2012 8:01 AM

It isn’t hard to imagine the intended audience for “Last Ounce of Courage.” The old-fashioned melodrama about a small-town mayor’s fight to put the Christ back in Christmas — and to drag the town’s mothballed angel ornaments back into the public square — plays squarely to folks who feel that Christians today are persecuted.

As its hero states, with little evidence other than a clip of Bill O’Reilly decrying the separation of church and state, “For a long time, people have been trying to pass laws to get rid of Christmas altogether.” The Grinch in this case is a cigar-smoking heavy from an ACLU-like, Washington-based advocacy group, played with lip-curling malevolence by Fred Williamson.

The fact that the movie’s hero, Bob Revere, is played by an actor whose press-kit bio describes him as “perhaps best known for his on-screen fight with the late Patrick Swayze in the cult movie ‘Road House’ ” severely limits the film’s broader appeal.

Heading a cast of mostly unknowns, whose level of talent varies widely, star Marshall Teague will win no acting awards for his performance as an American veteran and patriot pushed to the limit by political correctness. The sheer volume of what I like to call “eyebrow acting” — in which thespian intensity is directly proportional to the angle and depth of one’s forehead furrows — is staggering.

The strenuous ax-grinding of the polemical script by Darrel Campbell (who co-directed with producer Kevin McAfee) will also win few converts to the cause. Simply put, “Last Ounce” argues that the American people are slowly but surely being robbed of our freedoms by Big Government. Though no doubt earnest, that message is hampered by heavy-handedness. It feels like a political attack ad created by a group of passionate but unpolished novices.

When the mayor defies those who try to crack down on his state-sponsored religious expression, for instance — hoisting a giant cross with the legend “Jesus saves” onto a downtown building — a TV news reporter observes that he is “flaunting” the will of the people.

Whether that malapropism is unintended or meant as a joke, it still hurts.

In other respects, “Last Ounce” is a workmanlike, if treacly and overblown, piece of propaganda. Its effectiveness depends entirely on the degree to which you already believe its talking points.

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