Over the past few decades, many school systems and small town governments have begun removing religion from state-sponsored properties and functions. Even in most areas of the Heartland, Jesus’ birth is no longer considered proper subject matter for public school plays. The 10 Commandments are no longer treated as universal laws to be displayed on courthouses. Christmas breaks have turned into holiday breaks. Even Santa’s flashy red and green lights have been swapped out for the more understated, less objectionable and honestly, far prettier white alternatives.
A certain percentage of people sees this transition to a more secular public society as necessary forward progress to defend minority rights, and another percentage sees it as a stupid, politically correct middle finger directed toward the traditions and values most of the country grew up with. Last Ounce Of Courage was made by people who hold the latter beliefs. It’s a rousing call to arms to stand up to aggressive laical influence. It’s a hard sell, willing to manipulate its characters and story arc to achieve its main goal, which, of course, is to please those who already share its viewpoint.
Last Ounce Of Courage gives us a lot of characters, but two of them define the conflict better than the rest. There’s Bob Revere (Marshall Teague), a combination pharmacist/ small town mayor/ husband/ veteran/ father to a deceased soldier and Warren “The Hammer” Hammerschmidt (Fred Williamson), a frustrated advocate for an organization very strongly implied to be the ACLU that just wants to keep the state and religion separated. After Bob’s grandson Hunter (Christian Revere) gets in trouble for bringing a Bible to school, the mayor decides it’s time to bring a traditional Christmas celebration back to his town, much to the chagrin of the Hammer, who thinks he should celebrate in his own house.
Throughout the film, the two men jostle back-and-forth as Bob puts up everything from giant trees to crosses, and his foe does everything from explaining his take on the Constitution to filing a lawsuit. It’s a great credit to Courage that it allows the Hammer to speak and answer questions as someone with his belief system might actually do. Unfortunately, it’s a great knock against the film that it seems to assume Bob represents freedom and the Hammer does not.
Freedom means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. From one perspective, the Hammer swooping in and telling the citizens of a small town they can’t celebrate Christmas like they always have is a gross violation of their freedom. From another perspective, a non-believer having to see overt religious displays on the property of a government that’s supposed to be serving him is a violation of his freedom. It’s an extremely complicated issue, but if you take it from Last Ounce, it’s not confusing at all. Men like Bob are trying to hold fast to what they believe in, while men like the Hammer are trying to attack a national holiday and make them feel bad for their beliefs.
This one-sided take on a polarizing issue is the main reason Courage will only really work for the converted, but in a way, that’s kind of a victory. Christian advocates have been producing movies for decades, but the vast majority come across as overtly amateurish. This one really does not. The acting is well within the average range, and the script, while melodramatic and manipulative, has a nice balance between the Bob/ Hammer plot and a public school winter play about space aliens Christian and his friends decide to sabotage. The latter especially brings with it some much-needed levity.
Perhaps because of these positive elements, or maybe because it earned a ringing endorsement from Chuck Norris, the decision was made to take Last Ounce Of Courage far wider than such films normally go. Over a million dollars has been generated thus far. For those irritated by a loud-mouthed minority trying to change a country that’s always been filled with mostly Christians, adding to that haul will be a pleasant way to spend an hour and a half. For those who are profoundly bothered by the first part of that last sentence, however, I’d suggest doing anything else with your time.