by Jason Ross
We’ve seen the Zombie Apocalypse firsthand, here at ReadyMan, and it ain’t pretty.
But the guns are awesome.
Along with the nut-jobs at Article 15 Clothing and Ranger Up, Evan Hafer (President of ReadyMan) stars in the Hollywood movie, Range 15, coming out this spring. Yes, it’s about the Apocalypse. And, yes, it’s a comedy of the rawest kind (don’t take the kids.)
Ross Patterson acts and directs, veteran of cult comedy classics like “FDR: American Badass!” and “Helen Keller vs. Nighwolves” and Ross fits right in with the bawdy, vet-comedy of the Art 15 crowd. The feature-length film attracted action film greats; William Shatner, Danny Trejo, Keith David, and then a stack of ultra-cool celebs; Randy Couture, Tim Kennedy, Jim O’Heir, Sean Astin and Dale Dye.
But the comedy and celebs belie the true import of the film and you couldn’t be on set without noticing that something profoundly honorable and unique was taking place amidst the dick-and-ball jokes and grotesque special effects. Range 15 is about the veterans of the late desert wars. It embodies their humor — millennials who stepped up to defend our country and, in doing so, developed their own way of making it hilarious.
The true stars of the show are those who fought and bled for our country. Young veterans from all over the country flooded into Hollywood for early-morning cast calls and late night drinking binges. Wounded warriors were everywhere you looked. From the (actually) leg-less zombie vets, dragging bloody stumps across the LA blacktop for hours on end, to the Medal of Honor recipients Leroy Petry and Clint Romesha, to Marcus Lutrell (Lone Survivor), to the boys of Art 15 Clothing and Ranger Up themselves — the film was packed with those who actually served, fought and paid big prices to defend our country.
And they have no problem whatsoever making fun of themselves. Mary Dague (Army bomb tech who lost both her arms in Iraq) shares an absurd “intimate moment” with Mat Best (President of Art 15 Clothing and Army Ranger) behind a dumpster, making sure that her rhythmically-flapping armlets take center-stage.
Alek Skarlatos , hero of the Paris train terrorist intervention, gets loudly interrupted at a bar by Mat Best, “Shut up!! Shut up! Shut up! We’ve heard this story a hundred times!!!” And dozens of other wounded warriors take to the stage to have as much fun as possible with their combat deeds and combat scars.
Making a monument to the men and women of the desert wars requires a departure from our normal bronze statue approach. Rather, they’d prefer a feature-length film that makes them laugh.
It’s a millennial thing.
The movie kicks off with Mat Best at a bar, of course, celebrating his retirement from the Army Rangers. The very next morning, the Zombie Apocalypse comes to L.A. and Mat busts out of the drunk tank with the help of his friends from Art 15 and Ranger Up, not to mention Marcus Luttrell, William Shatner and Keith David. From there all manner of mayhem erupts. I won’t spoil it for you, but one or two zombies die in the process.
The boys had a lot of fun with the weapons, too, using custom Glocks from Agency Arms and a pile of M4s and the like. My personal favorite was the Tiger-panty print Glock and Jarred Taylor’s pink Glock.
Minor tension simmered on set between the weapons guys, used to dealing with prim Hollywood actors, and the all-SOF cast. Let’s just say that the actors knew a bit more about firearm safety and handling than the “experts.” But the boys deferred to the Hollywood guys and a good time was had by all.
With the quirky humor of both Jarred Taylor (Art 15 Clothing), Evan Hafer (ReadyMan and Black Rifle Coffee) and Ross Patterson baked into the script, it’s not your average funny movie. It’s weird. And just when you think it’s gone beyond the pale, it gets weirder still. Eventually, you have to let yourself go and just laugh.
In the end, you can see this movie as “weird” or you can enjoy it as a cultural juggernaut — expressing the shameless, self-deprecating values of young men and women who’ve been-there-done-that and choose to laugh out loud rather than impress the world with their combat accolades. Truly, it’s a full-screen attempt to re-capture and re-frame the American notion of military. Instead of steely-eyed killers, Range 15 parades the hilarious underbelly of the American cadre of vets and special forces operators. In its own bullet-showered, blood-spattered way, the movie objects to the glorification of violence and combat.
And, in case you were thinking that the film’s gestalt might be just the opinion of the writers/producers, Range 15 was entirely funded by veterans and their friends. By placing the film on the Indiegogo crowd sourcing site, the producers invited vets to show their support through small donations. They raised a whopping $1 million with an average donation of just over $100. Range 15 instantly became the Number Four largest film on Indiegogo of all time. That’s 10,000 veterans and their family and friends saying, “We want this movie!”
Most of the ReadyMan staff made it out to the Hollywood set during the two weeks of filming. This weekend, we’re joining the Article 15 and Ranger Up guys at Sundance Film Festival for a screening of the Range 15 trailer.
This coming spring, when the film enjoys a limited theater release, and then direct-download, you’ll have the chance to see it too. We hope you’ll enjoy this take on veteran humor — and the culture they’re creating. And, we hope that ReadyMan guys everywhere support the mission of Range 15 — to re-shape the country’s view of our warriors. From stoic combatants to warm-hearted jokesters, at very least, we hope you notice just how humble these men are; profoundly brave, wise and accomplished, but laughing at themselves the whole time.