THE REPUBLIC OF RICK (2014)
I live in the area north of Dallas, Texas. I wasn’t born here. In fact, I didn’t even get here “as fast as I could,” as the saying goes. I’ve lived in Texas for a little over five years as a recession refugee from Southern California. So I missed the entire real-life debacle that is satirized by “The Republic of Rick” (2014), a comedy mockumentary from director Mario Kyprianou, who wrote and produced the screenplay with Becky Leigh (who also appears in the film). After watching the film on Amazon Prime recently, I can say that I’m lucky I wasn’t here when the real-life events spoofed by the film went down. The film itself is hilarious, but its source material is painfully ridiculous – yet great material for a satire.
Rick Launer (Dave Abed), the lead character in “The Republic of Rick,” is based on Rick McLaren, a real-life Texas secessionist whose exploits in the 1990s form the basis of the film’s story. Kyprianou and Leigh did some serious background research for the script, including touring Texas and even interviewing McLaren, who is currently serving a very long Federal prison sentence. This work clearly paid off for them, as the real-life hijinks of McLaren and his faction are frighteningly comic. Abed does a great job (although sometimes a bit over-the-top) in portraying Launer/McLaren. Likewise, Leigh is charmingly daffy as Launer’s wife, Tandy. While the some of the remaining characters are somewhat flat and stereotypical, standout supporting performances come from Ronnie Lee Steadman as Travis Wunderlich and John Macey as Gary Hobratch.
I’m tempted to say that the production values are average in this film, but that would be short-sighted. “The Republic of Rick” is intended to look like a fringe group’s amateurish attempt at making a documentary. As a mockumentary, the film ends with an epilogue that attempts to connect Rick’s story with an imagined satirical Texas future. This segment doesn’t work as well as the rest of the film, as Texas politics hasn’t gone quite as far-right as it predicts – although Texas is still a very Red state in general (with notable exceptions, such as Austin and Dallas). The depiction of former Governor Rick Perry (AKA “Governor Goodhair”), however, is spot-on.
At first I had thought to offer additional comments in defense of Texas, but current events have made that impossible. Despite (or perhaps because of) the growing diversity in North Texas, there was the recent police brutality incident in McKinney. Then, on the local TV news today, I learned that there is a “controversy” about a planned Muslim cemetery in Farmersville. Apparently living Muslims are OK here, but only until they die. So, touché, Kyprianou (who is originally from Dallas) and Leigh. Now, I’m going to be working on learning some special Jedi mind tricks. Y’know, something like, “Those aren’t the Muslims you’re looking for.”
This film was a smash hit at the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival. My rating on IMDb: 7/10 stars. If you have already seen or watch this movie in the future, what did you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Disclosure: Loud Green Bird provided this fair and honest review at the request of Becky Leigh, writer-producer-actor for “The Republic of Rick.” No financial considerations were involved.