LAND OF THE FREE

land of the free

LAND OF THE FREE (1998)

TAGLINE: “One Nation. Under God. Under Fire. Under Siege”

IMDB Rating: 3.8/10

            Speakman returns. And if ‘Running Red’ was Speakman Begins, then ‘Land of The Free’ is most definitely The Dark Speakman. This film has everything one could possibly want from a £1 DVD…

1.                  It stars Jeff Speakman

2.                  It stars William Shatner

3.                  It features rogue government agents

4.                  It features a gratuitous sex scene

5.                  It stars Jeff Speakman

It’s astonishing quite how brilliantly bad ‘Land Of The Free’ really is. There is so much to take pleasure from, so many layers of absurdity to unpeel. The joy is in trying to identify one’s favourite moments. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

First up, there’s The Shatner. Anyone who has ever witnessed The Shatner’s spoken word rendition of Elton John’s ‘Rocket Man’ from the 1978 Sci-Fi Awards is aware of how truly unique the man’s talent is. He has of course got a wonderfully original style of delivery that goes something like, ‘…deliverpartofsentencevery……quicklybutpauseatthe……mostunnatural point……for……exaggeratedeffect [Squint into middle distance]’. It’s a method that has served him well throughout his career and ‘Land Of The Free’ must count as the zenith of Shatnerism.

However, even the patented Shatner charisma can’t hide the fact that in ‘Land of the Free’, the legend is now almost as round as he is tall. Add the fact that the make up team has given him an intense mahogany burnish that changes between, and even during scenes, and he begins to resemble nothing less than a weeble that’s been rolled through a dog turd.

Jeff too is carrying the extra poundage that helped make ‘Running Red’ so memorable. This time, he plays Frank Jennings, a principled former Naval Intelligence Officer, now campaign manager for The Shatner’s character Aidan Carvell, a Senate candidate. We know Jeff’s a principled former Naval Intelligence Officer when an FBI agent, in some stellar expository dialogue, reminds us so.

            However, could our tubby Senate candidate have a dark side? When Jeff gets a call from an old Navy Intelligence buddy warning that The Shatner is actually the leader of a secret militia who after victory in the election, is plotting a coup to turn America into a fascist state, he can barely take it in. His utterly blank face impassive.

            The Navy Buddy is important. Not just because he imparts key information, but also because he gets to perform the obligatory sex scene in the movie. The picture on the back of the DVD cover was carefully chosen to imply that it’s Jeff dishing out the loving in this movie. Thankfully not. No amount of soft focus would make that palatable. Instead it’s Navy Buddy and some anonymous lovely that are getting it on- in an ocean of billowing chiffon and candles. Frankly the whole thing looks like a terrible fire hazard. This scene is semi-justified when she is brutally executed during a post coital shower, and he is garrotted by the fridge. Actually, next to the fridge, not by the fridge- that would be a whole different movie.

The FBI also have their suspicions about The Shatner. Beyondhisun……usual……cadence. They encourage Jeff to search his boss’ computer for secret files as they don’t have a warrant or probable cause. Jeff agrees because he is so highly principled.

Let’s take a brief pause here and recap- Jeff, at the behest of an FBI agent’s hunch, breaks into his boss’ office, logs on to his computer and steals some confidential files. Jeff has actually broken the law. If caught, he will get fired and possibly go to jail. So when he is discovered, what does our supposed ‘hero’ do? He slaughters four innocent office security guards in cold blood and escapes by tying a fire hose around his ample midriff, and jumping off the building, Die Hard style. That guy is so damned principled.

The Speakman theme re-emerges. Just as in ‘Running Red’, Jeff kills indiscriminately to maintain stability in his life. As before, he has a hot wife and a child (this time though, an irritating son) and it would appear that just as before, he will kill without mercy anyone who threatens his happiness.

Let’s also take a moment to discuss the score- which sounds like it has been ripped off a fantasy adventure game for the Spectrum 48k. It’s rubbish. When Jeff is attempting to ninja a baddie, we don’t need to be hearing the music from ‘Horace Goes Skiing’. It’s yet another assault on the viewer(s) who are already taking a sizable kicking.

And so the scene is set for a jowly face-off between former allies. Two implacable foes separated by betrayal, very solid hair, and a thirst for vengeance and thick shakes. The FBI now have The Shatner’s computer files that were lifted by Jeff, so surely the coup is over. Justice in The Land Of The Free surely will prevail. But of course, although The Shatner may be the baddie, he’s so impossibly awesome, he’s actually found innocent of all charges. And when he confronts Jeff, who has just testified against him, his pudgy face is so angry, he looks like a baby straining to poo.

Jeff and his family are in danger and due to the rogue agents (!) in charge of the Witness Protection Programme, Jeff must now defend his family alone.

            At first he protects his family as only Jeff can- with some badly edited, awkward and strained baddie bone breakage. Then he decides to hide his hot wife and irritating son somewhere no one will ever find them. A hiding place so cunningly unique, so impossibly devious, their safety will be absolutely guaranteed – so he drives his own car into to a multi storey car park, puts them on the back seat, and places a travel rug over the pair of them. Genius. It’s like having a stealth family. None of his pursuers could have predicted that.

            Yet despite this brilliantly chameleon-like camouflage, somehow The Shatner’s goons STILL find them, and Jeff and family are forced to make their lumbering escape on a requisitioned school bus. (The 2nd bus chase in two Speakman films. Is he a frustrated coach driver?) This is every bit as tiresome as it sounds. Even the apocalyptic crash at the end of chase doesn’t heighten the excitement. When an unhurt Jeff climbs back onto the twisted, burning vehicle having been thrown clear, he ignores his badly injured (but still irritating) son to first check on his hot wife’s condition. He knows the score. After all, she’s very hot and he’s just a man. With a man’s needs.

            With his irritating son in a coma and his hot wife hospitalised, Jeff does the only thing a principled former Naval Intelligence Officer can do. He visits an unhinged illegal bomb maker to buy explosives to blow up William Shatner’s house, with William Shatner inside. A perfect Speakman plan- bizarre, elaborate, violent, unnecessary. This leads to a denouement so brilliant, we watched it twice.

            There are guns, knives, chop-socky, a helicopter chase, explosions and one of the greatest lines of the project so far, ‘We have a problem. There is a bomb in the hall closet’. After The Shatner’s house is destroyed, the helicopter blown up and the henchmen dispatched, we are left with just Jeff and The Shatner to fight it out- mano e mano. A heavyweight contest in every sense. The location of this titanic battle is in and around a pond on The Shatner’s estate, which is apposite, as they do resemble two bullfrogs wrestling for a mate.

            One would assume that with his skills, Jeff would be an easy victor but it appears that the vast circumference of The Shatner’s neck prevents Jeff from successfully strangling him immediately. After Jeff finally vanquishes his opponent, The Shatner lies prostrate on the ground – bloodied, beaten but apparently unbowed. ‘I win’, proclaims The Shatner, ‘You don’t have the balls to kill me’. This is unwise. Jeff is already responsible for a body count of around a dozen so claiming he doesn’t have the balls is just asking for it. Jeff responds in the only way a principled man can. He drags The Shatner into the pond and drowns him. 1 – 0 to the Speakman. And his family recover. 2 – 0. And the FBI cover up the The Shatner’s murder and the house explosion so Jeff can live happily ever after. 3 – 0 in injury time.

             These 90 minutes have encapsulated everything that is great about a truly awful movie. It has been a privilege to watch. We could have saved it for later but when you discover someone special, you want to share them with the world. Farewell Jeff, may you live a long and happy life, interrupted only by the sound of the broken necks and the screams of agony from those who unwisely cross your mighty path.


Land Of The Free – Trailer. In German. Why do these films always seem better in a foreign language?

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