Taking its title from the state motto of New Hampshire, "Live Free or Die" is a deadpan comedy about a clueless, aspiring criminal named John "Rugged" Rudgate, who spends his days forging rebate coupons and selling speakers out the back of his van. One day, Rugged runs into an old acquaintance, the dim-witted Jeff Lagrand, who recently returned home to help his cynical sister run the storage facility that they inherited from their father. When Rugged tries to force his way into the Lagrand family business, things go terribly wrong--and the situation gets even more complicated when an emotionally unstable cop begins investigating.

Rating: R (for pervasive language including sex references)
Genre: Art House & International, Comedy, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By: Gregg Kavet , Andy Robin
Written By: Gregg Kavet , Andy Robin
In Theaters: Dec 31, 2006 wide
On DVD: Jul 24, 2007
Runtime: 89 minutes
Studio: ThinkFilm

 

TOMATOMETER Critics: 40%  / Audience: 43%

Rotten Tomatoes CRITICS  REVIEWS

 

March 30, 2007

Ty Burr Top Critic  Boston Globe

A comedy of Yankee errors

Aaron Stanford plays John "Rugged" Rudgate, a small-town "gangsta" at the center of this crime comedy set in New Hampshire. (Think Film Co.)

"Live Free or Die" has picked up some brutal reviews from other critics around the country ("criminally short on laughs," Variety ). That's probably because they've never been to New Hampshire.

If you have been to that fine state immediately to our north -- better yet, if you've escaped -- this crime comedy will have the squalid, bitterly funny ring of truth. Like a 1972 Dodge that's been up on blocks in a front yard off a state highway, "Live Free" takes an awfully long time to start up. Its timing isn't great, either, but it gets you to the state liquor store and that's what counts.

Aaron Stanford ("Tadpole ," the "X-Men " movies) is intentionally miscast as John "Rugged" Rudgate , the scourge of Rutland, N.H. (played convincingly by the town of Claremont , just over the border from Vermont). His legend precedes and overshadows him; in reality, he's a shrimp, a coward, and a motormouth. He's not even a criminal, since the "hot" speakers he sells from the back of his rusted blue van have been legally purchased.

Rugged would die of shame if you knew that, though, since he aims to be the baddest mother in the state. He's got the New Hampshire gangsta look -- knit hat, at least three shirts, tattered parka -- and he claims to have killed a logger or two. When he runs into a thick-witted high school acquaintance named Jeff (Paul Schneider ) who just inherited a self-storage facility, Rugged spies a chance to get a piece of the action.

First, though, he has to prove his manliness against a local Bluto (R.E. Rodgers ), which results in a sequence of mishaps that include murder, breaking and entering, and the theft of vintage pornography. Events don't escalate in "Live Free and Die" so much as devolve in a slow-motion daisy chain of ineptitude. To do something right would probably mean you're from Connecticut.

Stanford is amusing as this preposterous wannabe -- a Yorkie trying to act like a pit bull -- but Schneider makes the part of the hero's sidekick into something special. Always a half beat behind the rest of the characters, he's like Art Carney stuck in molasses. As Jeff's sister, Zooey Deschanel ambles through a few scenes and immediately raises the film's IQ by 50 points.

The minor characters are hit-and-miss. Michael Rapaport can't do much with the underwritten part of a jealous policeman, but Ebon Moss-Bachrach is unsettling as a local thug of the sort Rugged aspires to be, and Judah Friedlander ("American Splendor ") is truly sleazy as a hardware store proprietor. From his greasy muttonchops to his imitation Stephen King horn-rims, he captures a very particular Granite State retail truculence. I bought a used car from this guy once, and I got hosed.

"Live Free or Die" -- named for New Hampshire's motto, which is stamped onto state license plates by prison inmates -- has been written and directed by former "Seinfeld" writers Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin . The film has the same sense of dryly observed entropy as the show's final episode, the one that angered the faithful by stranding Jerry and company in a small Massachusetts town.

Kavet and Robin just set the inaction a little farther north, in the land of no taxes and less hope. Clearly they're hoping for another "Fargo," but they don't even make it across the river to Bellows Falls . This isn't a great movie -- it's barely good, really -- but it gets something about New Hampshire I've rarely seen onscreen: a defiant pride in the way things don't work out. "Live Free" is a comedy of vastly diminished criminal expectations. That's the fun of it, and the frustration, too.

+++

April 5, 2006

Joe Leydon  Top Critic Variety

Very much like its hapless lead character, a small-town, small-time hustler who yearns to present himself as a dangerous outlaw, "Live Free or Die" tries too hard, to little effect. Best described as "Fargo Lite," indie comedy is criminally short on laughs as it tries to wring humor from dull activity by dim bulbs. Pic merits an indefinite sentence to late-night cable time slots.

Despite his pathetic posturing and foul-mouthed bluster, John “Rugged” Rudgate (unappealingly played by Aaron Stanford) is ill-equipped to intimidate, and too inept for even the pettiest of larcenies. Indeed, he’s so desperate to earn bad-boy credentials in his backwoods New Hampshire community that he tries to poison a bar room bully who publicly humiliated him. When the bully dies, Rugged rashly (and mistakenly) assumes responsibility, triggering a series of complications that are never quite as funny as filmmakers Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin intend. Performances range from barely adequate to gratingly overstated. Cast as Rugged’s reluctant partner in crime, Paul Schneider appears to be channeling Will Ferrell from a bad “Saturday Night Live” sketch. Tech values are unspectacular.

+++

AUDIENCE REVIEWS

September 19, 2012

****  Kelly B

Extremely funny, not to mention underrated. This was just released on DVD today, if you see it on the shelf of your local video store don't hesitate to pick it up, it's worth it.

+++

August 20, 2009

**** LWOODS04 Super Reviewer

Aaron Stanford, Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Juah Friedlander, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Kevin Dunn, Peter Anthony Tambakis, Michael Rapaport

DIRECTED BY: Andy Robin & Gregg Kavet

Taking its title from the state motto of New Hampshire, "Live Free or Die" is a deadpan comedy about a clueless, aspiring criminal named John "Rugged" Rudgate, who spends his days forging rebate coupons and selling speakers out the back of his van. One day, Rugged runs into an old acquaintance, the dim-witted Jeff Lagrand, who recently returned home to help his cynical sister run the storage facility that they inherited from their father. When Rugged tries to force his way into the Lagrand family business, things go terribly wrong--and the situation gets even more complicated when an emotionally unstable cop begins investigating

Well it didn't turn out to be as funny as I had hoped, but it had some good laughs. I found Pual Schneider and Zooey Deschanel to be the only funny two. Schneider's character was just one those off-beat characters that I love. Not so obviously funny. There should have been more Zooey in this movie. Would have been better I think. It was a bit boring at times and kinda silly. But I think it being silly was kind of the writer's intent. But all in all a decent watch.. Maybe..

+++

February 22, 2010

** ½ Brian H

pretty funnny deadpan comedy of sorts that delivers in all directions

+++

February 17, 2010

*** Sagar N

Hmmmm...........not so funny.....

+++

June 1, 2009

*** ½ Adam L

Takes a bit to get going but once it does it's really funny. I like small town movies where everyone's wardrobe didn't make it out of the 80s. Judah Friedlander is funny and Paul Schneider is flippin' hilarious.

+++

January 24, 2009

* ½ Tobias L

A really cool cast in a fun quirky movie that is an easy watch....don't expect too much from this thin plot and at times rigid acting.....Set in a small town in New Hampshire and about a wanna be criminal legend who just does not have the brains or the braun to carry it off. It's been done before, and a lot better, but it's not without its funny moments....especially the hardware store guy who gives more than most.

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