Thursday, January 20, 2011

From the mind of Uwe Boll: Rampage

Perusing a Redbox machine recently, my unassuming brother inquired whether a film titled Darfur was worth seeing. Considering how many films completely miss a theatrical release in recent years, he was being perfectly reasonable to assume a film they had never heard of could be an under the radar gem. So he was a little shocked when I squelched “No, that’s a Uwe Boll film!” with a pitch and urgency usually reserved for “ No, don’t touch those rusty AIDS needles!”
Somehow I knew - simply by virtue of being directed by German doctor of literature/ super prolific director Uwe Boll- that the film Darfur had to be equally offensive to the actual events of Darfur. That I have never seen a Uwe Boll film is beside the fact. Since House of the Dead (2003), Boll has chruned out several films a year and earned a reputation as one of the all time great hacks. To be so hated for his lack of talent, in an era when plenty of schlock films are making it to DVD, is perhaps more impressive than actually making quality features would be. Boll should be easy to ignore as his films are only receive scant theatrical runs and yet in 8 short years he has captured the ire of the interweb as if his films were compulsory viewing in public schools. Something about Boll’s penchant for catching once A list actors in need of a quick pay check and inserting them into completely inappropriate rolls and his exploitation of a loop hole in the German tax code that funds all of his features have made into some sort of schlock filmmaker super villain.
And yet I have never seen a Uwe Boll film. Just by dumb luck, I managed to avoid the string of movies being touted as some of he worst ever made. Also, I’ve mostly only watched reruns of Made on MTV in the years that Boll has been making movies.
So when I saw that Rampage (2009) was streaming off of Netflix, I thought I would watch the first 10 minutes to see exactly how inept a filmmaker Boll actually is. 100 Minutes later the credits rolled and I did not know what to make of what I just saw.
Rampage does not have a brain in its schlock head. This I know. Yet it is deliriously stupid in a way that I could not aver my eyes from. Boll clearly hates his audience and creates a protagonist he probably thinks mirrors them and carries out their ultimate mean spirited fantasy.
Rampage is filmed in a cinema verite style that disguises it as a film of far greater nuance than it comes close to being. Our protagonist Bill Williamson (who’s Germanic mug is not so dissimilar from Boll) is working out in his room. I have to say that a character exercising almost always sucks me into a movie. As portrayed by Brendan Fletcher, Bill is about as douchey and aloof as they come, but I couldn’t stop wondering “What was he getting in shape for?” We learn that Bill is a college drop out who’s super-on-the-go parents think its time for him to get his own place. Bill is reticent.
Bill works at a garage where his boss wants him to abandon the van that is his pet project even though Bill has totally fixed, like, 3 cars that day!
The local barista doesn’t make Bill’s macchiato with enough foam even though he claims to make the best coffee in town. When he meets his only friend to discuss philosophy over fast food chicken, the counter girl ends up spilling soda all over his lap. It seems as if Bill is being pushed to the edge by societies demands and poor customer service.
Rampage really doesn’t deserve much more of a synopsis other than to say that Bill assembles a bullet proof suit , blows up the police station with the van he has been rigging with remote control, and goes around killing everyone he encounters for an hour or so. He then frames his philosopher friends for his killing spree/ bank robbery and fakes his suicide.
This is all filmed in a style similar to a Paul Greengrass film and I was actually surprised that Rampage had a fairly engaging visual style. But, oh boy, was this ever a contemptible movie.
I don’t know if Rampage would still be on my mind if I had not watched it the night before the Tucson shootings. In the past two weeks there has been a public discussion as to whether pundits and politicians are advocating the common man to take up arms and in the process fetishising a revolutionary motif to advance a fairly status quo political agenda. Despite it meandering and meaningless philosophical discuassion in the first act, Rampage does not even try to link its violence to any political movement. Here’s a list of what seemed to push the protagonist to the edge.
1. Parents wanting you to et your own place.
2. Boss telling you to do your job.
3. Asshole Baristas.
4. Fast food girl spilling your drink.

Boll seems to think that American’s (and yes, I’m going to assume he is targeting America) are motivated by no greater cause than inconvenience while at the same time giving those assholes the brainless entertainment they crave. Rampage basically plays out like Columbine if it had gone well for the shooters and I can now rightfully hate Uwe Boll like everyone else because he seems to think this is the hero an American audience will get behind. I don’t think I feel the need to go any further into the Boll oeuvre, but he did get me to watch 90 minutes more of this film than I had planned, so who’s the dupe?

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