Fewer directors are as notorious or maligned as Uwe Boll, a man so in love with his own incompetence that he challenges his critics to actual physical fights… and wins. His entire career is defined by a series of movies based on video games and not even good video games. His exceptionally terrible movies are based on games that review only slightly better than his movies. Everybody hates this guy. He’s frequently compared to the legendary director Ed Wood and it actually makes sense if you look at the comparison beyond the obvious observation that they both made and make really bad movies. Ed Wood loved film and loved making film. So does Boll. It just so happens that the end-product of their toils is such garbage. Boll gets away with flop after flop because of how film investing works in Germany. It’s basically a tax shelter. Until they changed the laws in 2005, investing in movies that were intended to fail splendidly, you could invest in a movie, write it off 100% on your taxes and government incentives gave you half your money back. You can see the appeal of film investing in Germany, can’t you? You can also borrow the money to invest from a bank. Sort of makes me wish I’d invested in Bloodrayne now that I understand how it works.
So here’s Boll’s latest, based on the Bally Midway arcade classic where three giant monsters run wild on American cities, smashing buildings, destroying tanks and eating screaming women who fling themselves from open windows.
Actually, I’m being told that this Rampage is not that game. It would seem that Uwe Boll’s Rampage is, in fact, an entirely original work and has nothing to do with video games or giant monsters. I apologize. I was confused. Apparently I’m still confused because I could swear those title cards said that this movie was produced, written and directed by Uwe Boll and somehow I’m about to embark on a really positive review of it. How the fuck did that happen?
Bill Williamson is not a violent loner. He doesn’t seem to thrill to violent video games. He doesn’t watch a lot of violent movies. By all accounts, he’s your average post-high school burnout living in an oppressive small town under the roof of his parents who desperately want him out of the house and on to his own life. From the looks of it, they’re supportive, if at the end of their rope. However, living inside Bill is a consciousness collapsing under the weight of a global village in decline. The world overpopulates as our resources dwindle. To deal with the rage building inside him, he dons a metal plated bullet proof suit and mask, loads up on guns and ammo and hits the streets, killing everything that moves according to an elaborate plan. The only thing left out in the end is how he managed to manipulate Scott Tenorman into eating his parents.
I’m kidding about that last part.
I’m at a loss to explain how I came out of this movie experience a believer. See, nobody likes an Uwe Boll movie and if you think that you do, you’re just lying to yourself in order to either deal with the anguish that comes with having consciously sat through one of his shit piles or trying to rationalize the hatred you feel for him on a personal level. No feeling has ever been so strong so the only way to deal with it is to go in the opposite direction and think that maybe Dungeon Siege wasn’t so bad after all. I mean, it had Ben Kingsley in it, didn’t it? But I’m fairly certain, unless my mental faculties are slipping away, that Rampage is actually a pretty good movie and proof that Uwe Boll may be capable of crafting a quality film. It displays a certain style not found in his other movies, it’s a much more intimate portrayal of a man on the edge, similar to Falling Down or Taxi Driver and somehow manages to make a very valid, if extremely nihilistic point about the direction this world is heading.
Back in 2008, Boll made his adaptation Postal, a game whose premise was pretty similar to this movie except that it was weighed down by slapstick comedy and deliberately offensive comedy. Rampage is what happens when the symptoms of the usual Boll production are removed and he sets out to make a movie of his own vision. It’s a flawed picture but Boll wins big points here for scaling his production down to something a lot more intimate than his usual output. The overall movie wins in the casting department, as well. Brendan Fletcher in the lead as an unrepentant sociopath is believable and not half bad as an actor. Everyone else with a recognizable face winds up wasted, such as Michael Pare and Katharine Isabelle who both seem to be in the movie with the intention of being shot. The visual style also plays a vital part in the movie with lots of tight closeups and a shaky handheld approach to practically the entire movie that makes any given episode of NYPD Blue look like smooth sailing. Sometimes Boll’s handheld technique appears as though the movie were being shot in a 5.0 earthquake. So beware. Bring dramamine to Rampage.
Rampage occasionally loses its footing as we build up to the main event. It’s being sold as some kind of revenge picture, but the revenge in Rampage is much more meta than that. If Bill’s killing spree were a vengeance trip because the snotty barista can’t get his cofffee right or the girl at the Chicken Hut accidentally dumped his food on him, that would be fucked up, I mean really fucked up. There’s not a lot building up to Bills actions, though. News bites play behind the action to suggest that what’s going on in the world is what weighs on Bill’s mind but there’s not much else to suggest that he’d turn into a calculating killing machine. Maybe that’s the point, though. Spree killers in recent American history tend to be dressed up by the media as comic book villains as if to appease the public appetite for answers in the aftermath of those tragedies but Bill Williamson of Rampage is the most likely image of those actual killers. He’s just some guy who’d had enough.
The eventual spree makes up the majority of the movie and it’s tough to say that anyone could enjoy watching it as it’s pretty sadistic, long and extremely violent. It’s fairly creative, though, and very obviously based on the two bank robbers who ran wild in North Hollywood in 1997 with automatic weapons and impenetrable suits of armor. Some of it’s a bit hard to swallow, such as a radio controlled attack on a police station but even if Boll wants to break out and make this some kind of insane fantasy, he keeps it mostly in check. By the time the credits roll you’ve seen a mostly consistent and very compelling horror movie that’s as unconventional as they come and a definite evolution in the movies of Uwe Boll. It’s too bad that it’s taken him so long to get here but if this is what we have to look forward to in the future from Uwe Boll, I’m all in favor of it.