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Film / Army of One

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Willpower. Horsepower. Firepower. At 180 miles per hour.

Army of One (aka Joshua Tree) is a 1993 American action film directed by Vic Armstrong, then known mostly for his stunt coordinator and second-unit director work.

The film stars Dolph Lundgren as Wellman Anthony Santee, a former Baja race car driver who has turned to a life of crime after the death of his mother. With his friend, Eddie Turner, Santee hauls exotic stolen cars for a car smuggling ring.

At the beginning of the movie, Santee transports another shipment through the desert, but a Highway Patrol officer pulls him over. While Eddie tries to reason with the cop, a pair of detectives named Frank Severance and Jack "Rudy" Rudisill show up, who kill Eddie and the patrolman, and severely wound Santee, pinning the murders on him.

Escaping from his prisoner transport unit following a botched execution attempt by Dirty Cops, Santee sets out to get even with those who betrayed him and killed his friend. Along the way, he kidnaps an off-duty deputy sheriff, Rita Marrick - needless to say, things then start to develop between the two...

The film was originally released with the title of Joshua Tree, but due to the popular U2 music video released at the time, it was renamed to the more recognised Army of One.

Not to be confused with the 2016 fact-based Iraq war satire of the same title, directed by Larry Charles (Borat) and starring Nicolas Cage as an average guy who takes it upon himself to find and assassinate Osama Bin Laden. Nor should it be confused with Army of Two, a Third-Person Shooter developed in 2008 by EA Montreal.

In the desert, there is no law. There are only tropes:

  • Action Girl: Slightly subverted with Rita. She starts out as a typical Damsel in Distress when taken hostage by Santee, but that quickly gets subverted when it turns out she is a deputy sheriff, and that she is merely waiting for an opportunity to ambush her captor and free herself. She proves to be a good match both against Santee and Severance during the course of the movie - she only get subdued either because her opponents are better armed, or because she gets wounded.
  • Action Hero: Santee proves he has the skills to be this during the garage shoot-out, when he dispatches dozens of Mooks all by himself.
  • Anti-Hero: Santee, of course. He is a former race driver turned car thief, which means he is not exactly an Ideal Hero, but he clearly cares about his friend, and has the sense of Honor Among Thieves. Too bad his employers don't.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Poor Eddie only gets a couple minutes of screen time before getting gunned down by Severance.
  • Cool Car: While the movie features a lengthy chase between Santee's stolen Ferrari F40 and Severance's Lamborghini Countach, both vehicles are actually fake. The vehicles were actually kit cars built on Pontiac Fiero shells, and were overdubbed with the appropriate engine sounds during post-production.
  • Creator Cameo: The newspaper clipping that Rita investigates at Santee's father was apparently written by a journalist named Andy Armstrong. Andy Armstrong is the brother of director Vic Armstrong, and worked both as a stuntman and second-unit director on Army of One.
  • Dirty Cop: LAPD detectives Severance and Rudisill of course, serving as the main baddies as well.
  • Dirty Harriet: A subverted example. Rita is on a date with a fellow deputy love interest when she is kidnapped by Santee, and therefore wears a very sexy Little Black Dress during her abduction. Santee makes her change the outfit to a pair of jeans though, so that she can keep up with him on foot.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Rita goes through her own when she witnesses Severance killing her deputy date, forcing her to run away with Santee and falsely labelled as a fugitive herself.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Deputy Michael, Rita's date early in the movie. This is also the reason why Santee can kidnap Rita in the first place: they get into an argument, forcing Rita to quickly leave the diner.
  • Evil Hero: Thinking that Santee is really a Cop Killer, the prisoner transport guards decide to serve their own type of justice, and get rid of him during the transfer, staging the murder as an attempted escape. Santee figures this out quickly enough, but still gets wounded in the process.
  • Fair Cop: Deputy Rita is the designated example of the trope in the movie. She appears in uniform only in the original ending of the movie though.
  • Heroic Bloodshed: The movie owes a lot to this particular genre, especially Santee being a morally-ambiguous protagonist who gets to kick ass using dual pistols. In fact, during the premiere of this movie, Vic Armstrong was in equal parts surprised and shocked to see John Woo in attendance, and he immediately tries to utter an apology...
    Vic Armstrong: "Sorry, John, I'm kind of ripping you off in one scene in this movie."
    John Woo: "Don't worry about it, Vic. I've been stealing from you for years."
  • Homage: To several movies, actually:
  • Informed Attribute: Severance mentions several times that Santee is like a son to him, but this notion isn't explored any further.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Kristian Alfonso of Days of Our Lives fame as deputy Rita Marrick. At the beginning of the movie, she is wearing a sexy Little Black Dress, switched to a pair of jeans later that are about a size too small for her. There is also an obligatory Shower Scene (played with a body double, though) and in-line with the majority of the early 90s action movies, there's a sex scene just before the Final Battle. The original ending also features her in a form-fitting sheriff's uniform.
  • Multiple Endings: The movie actually has two versions in circulation with two slightly different endings. The original ending has a shorter Final Battle, and a more upbeat finale set some time after the final showdown, featuring an on-duty Rita visiting Santee, and kissing goodbye to him, implying that they are still romantically involved. The reshot ending, available in certain DVD and Bluray versions has an extended Final Battle, and concludes in a slightly Downer Ending, where Santee gets arrested by the arriving police while Rita is kissing him.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Rudy, who taunts Santee during the Final Battle by claiming that Eddie was "just a nigger". These also prove to be his Last Words.
  • Railing Kill: During the warehouse shootout.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Sheriff Cepeda and most of the deputies are actually this. Even after Rita gets abducted and Severance describes Santee as a convicted Cop Killer, the sheriff department still refrains from making the hunt for him personal, and aim to recapture and bring him to justice instead. The fact that Rudy behaves like a Jerkass with them when Severance joins the party also makes them suspicious.
  • Rule of Cool: The warehouse shootout with the seemingly endless number of Mooks was extended for the "sake of action".
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: What Santee plans to do after escaping from the assassionation attempt, in order to get the money that Severance and Jimmy owes him and Eddie. It culminates in the garage shoot-out.
  • Say My Name: Santee wakes up from his nightmare by bolting up and screaming Eddie's name.
  • Shower Scene: When Rita tells Santee that she wants to take a shower in the motel, Santee forces her to do so while keeping an eye on her. The full body shots actually feature Kristian Alfonso's body double.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Severance and Rudy have no issues with roughing up Rita to lure Santee out during the finale. Santee also qualifies to a minor extent, as he also subdues Rita during the bus station shootout, although he makes sure not to wound her.