‘Range 15’ Is Vetsploitation by Actual Veterans

Zombie action flick promises guns, gore and Medals of Honor

‘Range 15’ Is Vetsploitation by Actual Veterans ‘Range 15’ Is Vetsploitation by Actual Veterans
Marcus Luttrell, war hero and former Navy SEAL stands in an alleyway filled with explosions. A police car idles behind him. He has the... ‘Range 15’ Is Vetsploitation by Actual Veterans

Marcus Luttrell, war hero and former Navy SEAL stands in an alleyway filled with explosions. A police car idles behind him. He has the Punisher’s skull painted on his face and he dual wields AK-47s. “Holy shit, it is fucking awesome,” he screams with fire in his eyes.

“It’s Marcus Luttrell!” one man in a line of six bloodied and weary survivor types says.

“Don’t worry about a thing,” Luttrell tells them. The hero is here now. He’ll save them all. That’s when a monster suddenly tackles him. The six men wince as chewing noises play in the background.

“Looks like we’re the lone survivors now,” one of them says while looking directly at the camera.

This is Range 15 — an upcoming no-budget vetsploitation film put together by writer and director Ross Patterson, who brought us such gems as FDR: American Badass! and Pool Boy: Drowning Out the Fury. If the trailer is any indication, the flick will be a parade of bad jokes and gore.

Oh, and the guy playing Luttrell is … Marcus Luttrell. Range 15’s cast and crew is full of actual, real-deal American veterans, including Medal of Honor recipients Leroy Petry and Clint Romesha.

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When I heard that the director responsible for Helen Keller vs. Nightwolves had produced and directed a film starring high-profile American war veterans, I felt my snark rising. “How awful,” I thought. “These guys go and fight a war, then come home to get churned through the Hollywood meat grinder. Just another notch on the ever growing belt of the vetsploitation genre.”

But then I watched the trailer and spent a day immersed in the story of the project. I watched the production diaries, read and re-read its Indiegogo page and studied up on the vets involved. The newfound knowledge kicked my inner film snob in the teeth.

Range 15 appears to be a grade-Z schlock fest filled with babes, bullets, zombies, explosions and vets. The plot follows the exploits of a group of former U.S. service members — all playing themselves — as they rush across the country to fight a zombie epidemic.

It’s a ridiculous exercise in bad taste. Just watch the trailer. My favorite sight gag is when someone tosses a set of keys to former bomb tech Mary Dague. She lost both of her arms in Iraq. It’s hard for her to catch.

Hollywood has been trying to make a decent movie about the soldier’s experience during America’s recent wars for well over a decade now. Most of them suck. They fall into two camps. The preachy, overwrought handwringing tripe such as The Green Zone, In the Valley of Elah and Stop-Loss. Or the cliched, sanctimonious, hero-worshipping junk such as Lone Survivor and The Hurt Locker.

Aside from The Dark Knight — an allegorical genre film — and Clint Eastwood’s excellent American Sniper, Hollywood has sucked at bringing America’s wars in the Middle East to the big screen. Range 15 isn’t going to change that. It’s not from Hollywood. But its creators do promise to capture the soldier’s experience.

Despite the fact that it’s a low-budget zombie horror film, I believe them.

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Nick Palmisciano co-wrote the script for Range 15. He’s a former U.S. Army infantry officer who started a tacticool clothing company back in 2006. It’s been a success and the company put up $250,000 to make the film happen.

Mat Best is another veteran who started the clothing company Article 15, which also put up $250,000 for the film. Best is an exuberant, over-the-top YouTube and social media sensation whose Facebook profile describes him as an entertainer. The movie’s title — Range 15 — is a portmanteau of the two clothing brands.

Based on the trailer, Best seems to be the star. He’s tough yet silly, ready to kick as well as mug for the camera. He’s leading man material, and the kind of guy you’d love to grab a beer with. And it’s Best’s additional videos that make me want to see Range 15.

The group funded the rest of Range 15 using the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. More than 9,000 people ponied up over $500,000 to make this thing happen. Watching their production videos, it’s easy to see why.

The video opens with a group of vets sitting around sharing a beer and waiting on Best. The wayward former soldier shows up, but rude assholes stop him before he enters and spit on him for being a vet. Best opens the door, calls to his comrades who come outside and slaughter the pop-collared douchebags.

Then the friends sit down and start bitching about Hollywood. “Can we all agree that most military movies really fucking suck?” one asks.

“Not all military movies suck,” another protests. His buddy rattles off a list of shitty military films. The entire table groans when he lists The Hurt Locker.

That’s when the bastards had me, because The Hurt Locker is a terrible movie and the only people who seem to realize it are me and every veteran I’ve ever met.

This a group of men and women who built something for themselves when they got back home from two terrible wars. They’re entrepreneurs who decided they could make a better military action movie than Hollywood. They want a fun film with real people who wear the right uniforms and use their equipment properly … even if it’s full of zombies and William Shatner.

Judging from the little we’ve seen, they did it right.

Luttrell doesn’t point his guns at the people he’s trying to save, but keeps the barrels in the air. Best calls out a superior officer for not shaving. The characters seem to be wearing the ammo they’ll later be firing. It’ll be surreal if a group of veterans produce a schlocky zombie action film that’s more militarily accurate than anything Hollywood ever made.

Hell, I hope they pull it off. I can’t wait to see it.