ange 15 promised current and former service members the country over zombies, irreverent violence and that special flavor of What the fuck? that only a deranged band of veterans could deliver. Ross Patterson agreed not only to direct a film whose script prompted other directors’ agents into fits of uncontrollable vomiting – he would also act in it (Gene Vandenham). But despite early praise from a steadfast few within the veteran community, this by-veteran for-veteran phenomenon is at best uneven, and at its worse completely unhinged. Nick Palmisciano and Mat Best – with the less-than-gentle touch of Patterson – go to great lengths to get laughs, turning almost every line of dialogue into a punchline. The endless shelling does manage to find its target a few times, but mostly just leaves you stumbling through the film looking for shelter and purpose. And while a certain amount of credit is owed the creators and cast for their sheer audacity and determination, Range 15 will ultimately collect dust in that box of shit you still keep but couldn’t care less about from your time in service.
The making of this film was a thing of twisted and desperate beauty. Range 15 was the 4th highest grossing campaign in IndieGoGo history, with over $1 million raised. Palmisciano & Best also put their money where their mouths were, launching the project with six figures’ worth of their own wheat. Heavy hitters within the veteran community like Marcus Luttrell, Dakota Meyer, Leroy Petry and Tim Kennedy signed on for cameos. And somehow, Palmisciano & Company were able to corral notable Hollywood talent for the movie in William Shatner, Danny Trejo and Sean Astin. It was shot in 14 days, and probably edited in 14 hours. The fact that this movie made it from idea to theater is astounding, especially considering what the script must have read like (oh, to be a fly on a wall).
The film sets itself up in a county-jail interrogation room, with Mat Best recollecting the previous evening’s festivities (that landed him in the drunk tank) to his public defender (William Shatner). Somewhere between a barroom flashback montage that overstayed its welcome and a 2 minute jail cell scene dripping in homosexual innuendo, the world suffered a zombie apocalypse. A man-turning-zombie tells Best and Palmisciano that they need to get to Range 15 (Ranger Up + Article 15 – I see what you did there), which, naturally, is where the scientists are located. En route, the team learns that the first batch of their Leadslinger’s Whiskey is, in fact, the antidote (due to the accidental admission of viper semen).
The rest of the plot is a disjointed mess, the audience being carelessly whisked from one bad joke setup to another, with occasional zombie interruptions. Actually, the zombies are the high point. The dialogue is so cringe-worthy that the viewer must take refuge in the relative bliss that are the scenes with guns and blood and no talking. Most of the cameos were forced, and those that showed potential lasted mere seconds. This could all have been forgiven had the writers and producers behind Range 15 not tried to pass off their shameless (and I mean, shameless) product placements as some kind of satire – it isn’t a joke when you’re actually engaging in the very activity you are attempting to make fun of.
My final takeaway from the movie is this: Palmisciano and Best, while deserving of recognition for the audacious by-vet, for-vet project, have set the bar inches from the ground. For those veterans out there looking to show off how shocking they are, this might be your flick. For the rest of us, take the $20 and buy some smack – you’ll hate yourself less for the heroin habit.
Dan Willis was an infantryman in the Marine Corps from 2010-2015 after a tumultuous and short career on Wall Street, serving with Fox Company 2/9. He is currently working on his undergraduate degree in economics at Columbus State Community College, and expects to finish at The Ohio State University. Dan humbly serves as RTB Media's Creative Director and Co-founder. Follow Dan on Twitter.