By Linc Leifeste | January 31, 2014
Director: Mario Kyprianou
Writer: Mario Kyprianou, Becky Leigh
Starring: Dave Abed, Ronnie Lee Steadman, Becky Leigh, John Macey, Darrell Philip, Angie Gregory
Mario Kyprianou’s directorial debut, The Republic of Rick, is a low-budget comedy set in 1998 West Texas and based loosely on the true story of Texas-separatist Rick McLaren’s wildly unsuccessful attempt to reclaim Texas sovereignty, claiming that the state was never properly annexed by the United States. The Rick of the film is Rick Lauren (Dave Abed), who is initially the “Ambassador” of the relatively mild-mannered Republic of Texas Club, until his overzealous portrayal of Davy Crockett in the organization’s Alamo reenactment (an over-the-top and wildly entertaining opening scene) leads to a public chastisement. Rick has also recently “assaulted” a USPS mail carrier by throwing a cup of water on him for encroaching on sovereign Texas soil and has a trial pending, which is not the kind of attention the Club is seeking. His pride wounded, Rick angrily quits the organization, claiming that they’re too sedate to ever achieve Texas independence, and is joined by his wife (Becky Leigh), a ministerial husband-and-wife team (Darrell Philip, Angie Gregory), and two more dim-witted nut-jubs.
The “republic of six” settle in around Rick’s rural trailer home to get organized and plot their next steps. Rick is soon sworn in as the President of the “Republic of Texas” and makes the tactical decision to not show for his court date, leading to a warrant for his arrest and additional attention from local law enforcement. The truth of the matter is that law enforcement and his neighbors tend to view Rick as more of an annoyance than a threat, despite the fact that him and his group are well-armed and more than a little delusional. Eventually the situation escalates (although that word might not be appropriate for such a light-hearted film) to something akin to a Waco/Branch Davidian-lite scenario, involving hostages and a standoff. Rick and his followers are soon forced to decide just how far they’re willing to go in pursuit of a free and sovereign Republic of Texas.
Abed’s performance as Rick shows that he has talent and charisma but his characters, and especially his sidekicks, are simply too one-dimensional and too outlandish to be able to hold my interest for long. Shot in the now-ubiquitous mockumentary style, with the actors often (but not always) showing awareness of the camera in their midst, The Republic of Rick plays it for laughs from the beginning. Yes there are guns waved around and guns fired, threats uttered and hostages taken, but this is a goofy, light-hearted romp through a semi-true story that probably could have made for an excellent darkly-comedic tale. Despite the moments of sharply comedic dialogue and hints of comedic acumen sprinkled throughout, the film’s lasting impression is sadly more of a half-baked, overly drawn out comedic sketch than a successful feature-length comedy or political satire.