Bizarro Masterpiece Theatre: Uwe Boll Double Feature

Uwe Boll: World's Most Hated Director

The Oh My God, These Uwe Boll Movies Don’t Suck! Double Feature

Over the years Uwe Boll has amassed a legion of despisers who hold that he is the worst film director of all time. As the director of such cinematic bombs as House of the Dead, BloodRayne, and Alone in the Dark, he is so hated in some circles that at least one petition has been circulated calling for his retirement, one of which amassed thousands upon thousands of signatures. One notable event to come from the Uwe Boll hatefest saw the director boxing five of his harshest critics, beating them all to a pulp. Obviously he’s not loved.

Boll has been referred to as the German Ed Wood, yet having slogged through the monumentally atrocious House of the Dead I feel that comparison does the Emperor of Bizarro a grave disservice. Yet beyond House I’ve avoided Boll’s curriculum vitae like the plague, so my knowledge of his work is essentially that everyone else says he sucks – and who knows how far that hearsay goes. On one point, at least, I’m willing to give Boll the benefit of the doubt and write off his bad reputation on the fact that he’s made little beyond video game movies for the past few decades. There has never been a great video game movie, and Uwe Boll is probably not the man to make the first.

Still, I’m sure I’m not alone when I assumed that Uwe Boll’s recent foray into more serious filmmaking would turn out to be a sick joke which would fail magnificently. Yet I was stunned – stunned! – to discover two Uwe Boll films which were actually quite good. For a director who has engendered such low expectations, such backhanded praise is akin to nominating him for an Academy Award.

Both Stoic and Rampage take long, uncomfortable views of angry young men who leap (and are not pushed, a vital distinction) into terrible acts of violence. Neither allows its disturbing savagery to become gratuitous or exploitative. Of the two, Stoic is the superior film, whereas Rampage is more visceral.

Stoic’s story involves a real case in the German prison system in which three inmates tortured a fellow prisoner to death. Well, the official story is that the prisoner committed suicide, but the film’s stance is unambiguous about it being a murder. None of the three torturers are innocent – each committing horrible acts upon their victim – but what this movie becomes is a question of degrees, of who is most guilty and most evil. Interviews conducted after the murder show the three inmates fluctuating between states of remorse and nonchalance, each trying to wriggle his way out of blame. It’s hard to tell who is really on the level, but the skinny guy who gets saddled with the lion’s share of blame comes off as remorseful and (comparatively) sympathetic. In contrast, the cell’s big German skinhead and tubby Edward Furlong soon emerge as the callous monsters, and each gets away with reduced punishment. Yes, Edward Furlong is in this film, and he’s as whiny and nasal as ever, but he also turns in a sinister and conniving performance that is easily his best work since American History X.

One idea advanced at film’s end is that not every criminal deserves to be tossed into prison with the rest of the dogs. Furlong’s scumbag and the German hulk were in prison for violent crimes, but skinny boy got busted for drug dealing while the dead kid’s crimes were vagrancy and resisting arrest. Throwing violent and nonviolent offenders in the same environment, Boll asserts, is a miscarriage of justice.

Rampage affords no such moral ambiguity; it is a straight-out spree killer film. The machine-gunning marauder who serves as this film’s focus spouts out high-minded screeds about overpopulation and anticapitalism (parroting his friend’s more sincere beliefs), but when he puts on his body armor and starts the slaughter, the gunner makes sure to hunt down those who wronged him earlier, and he runs off with a wad of cash. The result is nothing more than an act of revenge terrorism.

There are a few aspects of this film which annoy the hell out of me, facets which flicker through the scenes leading up to the carnage. Boll repeats the same monologues and soundbites over and over in an attempt to show the insanity of the world, a move which instead drags the movie and is really irritating. A smaller complaint is the beginning shows second-long bursts of the killing to come. I know that the film is called Rampage, and it’s not as though the viewer doesn’t know what to expect, but I’d like the action to happen in its own time.

Nonetheless, the rampage itself is gripping and surprisingly restrained. The motivations and acts of the killer are unsettling in their realism. However, there is one part of the movie which falls to surreal humor and doesn’t fit with the rest of the film. The killer, armed and in full body armor, wanders into a bingo hall, where the old folks are too engrossed in the game to notice him. Disgusted, he leaves without firing a shot, noting that they don’t need his help to be dead. It’s a weird moment of levity that, at least, is funny.

Uwe Boll, you’ve done well! Hey, maybe I’ll review BloodRayne 3 when it comes out! Okay, maybe not.

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