Live Free or Die




NEW YORK -- Despite its similar title, no one is likely to confuse "Live Free or Die" with the upcoming installment in the Bruce Willis action movie franchise. This one-note comedy about a pair of hapless would-be criminals, written and directed by former "Seinfeld" scribes Gregg Kavet and Andy Robin, displays little of the comic spark of their previous work. The New Hampshire-set film is receiving a limited theatrical release, appropriately in New England.

The film's title comes from the state motto, though it does little to set the tone for what follows. The story centers on John "Rugged" Rudgate (a charisma-free Aaron Stanford), a wannabe crook so scared to actually practice his craft that he buys the stereo speakers that he tells his customers are stolen. Spending his time on a variety of low-level scams like forging rebate coupons, he accidentally commits a crime for real when he poisons a guy who has been bullying him and the victim winds up dead.

At the same time, he becomes involved with Lagrand (Paul Schneider, doing a bad Will Ferrell impersonation), a slow-witted childhood friend who admiringly believes that Rugged is the real criminal deal.

There are some respectable performances by the supporting players, including Judah Friedlander as a profane store owner, Kevin Dunn as an exasperated sheriff, Michael Rapaport as a cop obsessed with his wife's possible infidelity and Zooey Deschanel as Lagrand's level-headed sister.

The ramshackle screenplay never gathers any comic steam, and the directors' hapless execution removes the possibility of any real laughs. They were no doubt aiming to give the film a deadpan comic tone, but instead it is simply lifeless.