“The Maple Leaf will prevail”
Sometimes a film can be successful as nothing more than a good time; a point driven home by the local Buffalo production Bravo Sierra. It’s a satire of the war in Iraq that is so over-the-top you can’t help but become part of the joke. While the first few minutes are funny, the performance of jack-of-all-trades Jason Aupperle, (writer, director, producer, editor, and star), seems too grating to look beyond. The film quality isn’t the greatest, the one-shot cutting abrupt as you wonder why two guys can’t have a conversation in the same frame, and Robert Imbs’ mustache is so fake you question why you’re still in your seat. Through it all, though, you’re in stitches as Imbs self-consciously rubs his nose in need of a coke snort, talking about an affair with the 400-pound First Lady. And Aupperle’s tough guy squinting is revealed to be tongue-in-cheek, not a bad acting crutch. A CNN-style newsreel credit sequence soon catches us up on the history of Middle Eastern city Shitholestan, and we finally understand what’s happening. It’s all a joke with a bunch of actors having the time of their lives hamming it up. Watch it with that in mind and you’ll have just as much fun as them.
The affair, captured in some very important blackmail photos given to Aupperle’s Johnny Appleseed, is why he’s been reassigned from her protection detail to a stint in the world’s armpit. Shitholestan has the best sod stockpiles on the planet and thus has been carved up by France, Russia, the US, and Canada. The figurehead king/president is Mubarek, (I’m hoping a mocking wink to Egypt’s president and not my family), and he has been looking to side with whomever leaves him in control—the North American rivals seeming to be front-runners in that competition. Appleseed finds himself to be a pawn in the middle of the two governments’ game for takeover and is shot down by friendly fire and left for dead. A rebel leader, the Russian-trained Igor played by local bassist Kent Webber, takes the soldier into his camp for intelligence and a way to rid this country of imperialist hostility. They prepare for the fight that is forthcoming while Phil Kurily’s General plays his bureaucratic chess with Dave Gilmet’s Canadian representative. It is all morons being led by morons as the events transpiring become a series of screw-ups and back-stabbing as the two western nations attack each other, allowing Appleseed one final mission to take out everyone who left him for dead.
But the plotlines of political espionage don’t take long to become inconsequential. As a viewer, you eventually don’t care who is going to live or die, whether the US gets control of the sod, or even if a nuclear bomb detonates and destroys half of the planet—none of that matters. I think Aupperle would be the first to tell you that the story is just the springboard for the comedic gems and obvious jabs at American government policy. You’ve got the typewriter captions for new locations, such as Fort Michael Dukakis and Fort Spiro T. Agnew; the blatant use of toy helicopters greenscreened into the frame, that I must say look pretty great and reminded me of when my friends made Lego movies for book reports in high school; and purposely placed continuity errors like Mubarek’s eye patch switching eyes mid-film. All it’s missing is for the characters themselves to also notice these mistakes in order to become a full on farce, if it wasn’t already. The filmmakers know exactly how long to make a gag last, at times even going so far beyond what’s acceptable that it’s made funny again—see Kristin Gilmet’s sexy Nazi-like superspy’s laughter for evidence.
Part of Bravo Sierra’s charm also comes with the Western New York locations doubling as Shitholestan. When you have Letchworth State Park as the jungle; the Naval Park, complete with thruway traffic in the distance, as the hub for American warships; and Mohawk Place’s bar filling in for a Middle Eastern saloon and setting for ninja fighting, the joke is even funnier for those familiar with the places. There is also something to be said about keeping flubbed takes in the final film, especially when this thing looks to have been shot digitally. I’d understand keeping mistakes due to budgetary constraints and film stock limitations, but when you can just press delete and reshoot, I have to believe this was an artistic decision. Kurily is the biggest culprit, but his deadpan line delivery, even funnier when he’s tearing his opponent apart with verbal barbs and expletives, pulling out everything but ‘yo mama’ jokes, is enough to look past it. Every scene with his general is hilarious; I have to say that, though, because he has stars on his lapel … he outranks me.
Credit is definitely due to Aupperle for understanding what he was doing. There were no egomaniacal thoughts in his head that what he was crafting was a serious film to be thought of as end of year award fodder. By using the medium of film, he was able to cull together a humorous ensemble of quirky eccentrics and write them some funny lines and absurd situations. What film besides a romp such as this can have Dave Gilmet’s Canadian official getting turned on as his real life wife Kristin tortures a rebel Shitholestani citizen? How about making that citizen, played by Shelley Imbs, a rough and tumble warrior without a tongue whose only utterances are manly grunts? Yet nothing is better than the muscle on both the American and Canadian sides of the fence. The blonde, mute, morally devoid flyboy popping his gum is a great nod to Top Gun-type characterizations and the red-bereted Canuck using Todd Bertuzzi-style fisticuffs to get the answers he wants is priceless. The lack of cast lists anywhere online hinders my ability to mention this actor’s name, but his Canadian accent and cavalier attitude is by far my favorite part of the film. And the fact he hates on Ontario first because he’s from Saskatchewan and second because he’s from Calgary, (which last I knew was in Alberta), only adds to the joke and broadens my smile.
Bravo Sierra 6/10 | ★ ★ ½
 Jason Aupperle as Johnny Appleseed
 Kristin Gilmet and Erik Aupperle.
photos ripped from trailer edited by Robert Imbs.