I've been a nice guy up to this point.
It's not so much that I've ever praised an Uwe Boll film, but I've sort of taken a "kid glove" approach to reviewing them.
"He's growing," I would say. Or, perhaps, I'd look at them as films that are simply so bad that they have a certain sort of charm about them.
This is the guy, after all, who had the guts to cast Tara Reid as a scientist in "Alone in the Dark."
Does anyone actually go into an Uwe Boll film expecting to be entertained?
I don't think so.
But, I've reached my limit with Boll's latest film, "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale."
The problem is simple. Over the past few years, I've become an increasingly visible film critic and a known advocate for the independent filmmaker.
I review and feature independent films, ultra-low budget independent films, short films, student films and virtually other films that may never even see the light of day. I've reviewed some truly horrid films, made horrid by both a marked lack of filmmaking talent and/or simply due to a budget that would simply never allow the vision to come to life.
I've also reviewed some stunning films that have struggled to find an audience or a budget or a studio, such as "Simple Things," "Eve of Understanding" and "Pirates of the Great Salt Lake" among others. Alyson Shelton made the wonderful "Eve of Understanding" on a paltry $20,000 budget while Boll would likely consider such an amount pocket change.
Shelton is a filmmaker. Boll, on the other hand, is a little boy with too much money and way too many high tech toys with which he has no idea how to play.
Boll is not a filmmaker. He is not a visionary. He has yet, several films into his career, to produce a single, solitary unique or artistic vision on the big screen.
"Heart of America," Boll's breakthrough film in America seemed to indicate that Boll, perhaps, had hopes of becoming a functional filmmaker. Since "Heart of America," however, Boll has focused his energies on bringing video games to life in modest to well-funded cinematic crap.
"Alone in the Dark?" Crap.
"Bloodrayne 2?" Crap.
"House of the Dead?" Crap.
I haven't seen "Postal," but my hopes are not high.
"In an altered dimension universe, "In the Name of the King" could possibly work itself up to a D- or D rating from a merciful film critic or audience member modestly impressed with the two or three cast members who seem to try and the so functional it's almost out of place fight work from Tony Ching.
The problem is that virtually every other aspect of "In the Name of the King" is so completely devoid of even competence, let alone artistic integrity, that it becomes virtually impossible to pass the film.
Then, there's the budget. Unlike most independent filmmakers who struggle to acquire even the most modest of budgets Boll was a successful businessman prior to becoming a filmmaker. Thus, he's got money to play with and connections who don't seem to care that he throws away their money on the artistic equivalent of SPAM for the artistic soul.
"In the Name of the King" had an unimaginable $60 million budget to work with and the result is, quite honestly, unconscionably bad filmmaking for a director who has several more films in the pipeline.
"In the Name of the King" is the story (the word "story" is used loosely here) of a husky farmer named, yes, Farmer (Jason Statham, "Crank") who is a peaceful sort until his farm is visited by the evil hounds of a sorcerer named Gallian (Ray Liotta). Farmer's young son is killed and his wife (Claire Forlani, "Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius" and "Green Street Hooligans") kidnapped.
As could be predicted, Farmer is no longer a man of peace and picks up his swords and boomerangs and heads off for revenge accompanied by his aging mentor, Norick (Ron Perlman, and his brother-in-law (Will Sanderson, who seems to be in every Boll film AND nothing else).
Farmer, unexpectedly to those around him, ends up being quite the fighter and attracts the attention of one of the king's men, Merick (John Rhys-Davies) and the king himself (Burt Reynolds. No, really).
Along the way, Farmer encounters such wonders as the tree nymph warriors led by Kristanna Loken ("Bloodrayne")while Gallian is busier trying to seduce the King's beautiful daughter (Leelee Sobieski) and trying to dethrone the king and replace him with Duke Fallow (Matthew Lillard).
Doug Taylor's remarkably inept screenplay, an instant Razzie nominee for 2008, is filled with lazy set-ups, bad dialogue, horrid cliche's and laughably uncomfortable speeches that will have you rolling your eyes, perhaps involuntarily.
Mathias Neumann's lensing for the film, largely shot in the Canadian Rockies, is occasionally quite beautiful, though the setting itself seems grossly inappropriate for the film's action. The film also features an overwhelming and intrusive musical score that further dilutes any potential for cinematic effectiveness.
Boll, who continues his trend of finding Hollywood B-listers (Lillard, Rhys-Davies, Statham, Perlman) and former A-listers desperate for work (Reynolds, Forlani, Liotta), continues to amaze with his ability to land seemingly talented actors and actresses who become completely and utterly inept under his direction.
Only Perlman manages to even remotely shine, proving a balanced counterpart to the grandiosity of Boll's alleged artistic vision. While Statham and Rhys-Davies are largely competent here, the remainder of the castmembers seem to get swallowed up in the inherent silliness of Boll's narcissistic vision and their performance cross the border into sheer badness.
Lillard, believe it or not, camps it up even moreso than in the "Scooby-Doo" series, while Reynolds seems to have this constant "deer in headlights" look about himself as if finally realizing that he's plummeted from a former box-office superstar to a D-lister barely able to get work. Liotta has shown a tendency towards campy action previously, but turns it up a notch here, and the female roles are, as is typical for a Boll film, not much more than eye candy.
Mercifully edited by 30 minutes from its original 127 minute length for its American release, "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale" is unfortunately not bad enough to become an instant camp classic in the action world. Instead, "In the Name of the King" is merely an abysmal and boring film from a filmmaker who seems more committed to getting film critics in the boxing ring than in learning how to make a decent film.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic