(On Cable TV, February 2014) Writer/Director Uwe Boll may be one of the most reviled filmmakers around, but wow is his latest Assault on Wall Street a fascinating piece of work. Few movies commit as completely to sheer populist outrage, and in selecting Wall Street as a target for a cheap exploitation film, Boll seems far more adept at reading the cultural zeitgeist than in more Hollywoodized products such as Tower Heist. From the get-go, the plot screws have the ring of the time: A protagonist stuck between crippling medical bills and life savings frittered away by financial shenanigans vows vengeance when he loses everything. The titular assault not only succeeds, but goes unpunished and even celebrated in a bit of epilogue narration. Hollywood is never this transgressive, and that makes Assault on Wall Street worth a look even if the film itself never rises above straight-to-video quality levels. There really isn’t much to say about the acting, directing or cinematography when compared to the sheer chutzpah of the script. Taking a break from more fantastical video-game premises suits Boll well: maybe he should consider that as a future career path. Who knows –he may end up doing something more than half-way respectable one of those days.
(On Cable TV, October 2013) Surprisingly enough, prior to this film I had never seen any film by legendary director Uwe Boll. I say “legendary” in the most jocular sense, as few other directors have been able to earn the kind of low-budget, bad-reviews, tax-shelter-financed, consensually-punches-critics-in-the-face fame that Boll has acquired over the years. His films aren’t meant to be art: they’re usually low-budget videogame adaptations aimed at the direct-to-video market and everyone knows it. Until recently, I had no easy access to that lowest tier of filmmaking, and little interest in venturing there. Now that I’ve got a cable TV subscription package with a dozen movie channels, though… I figured I could watch Bloodrayne: The Third Reich while putting together a few IKEA bookcases. As it turns out, this is exactly the right kind of movie to watch while doing something else: it’s hollow, inane and visually unremarkable, but it does have a few moments here and there to make you look up. I’m not at all familiar with the Bloodrayne video games, but the premise of the film doesn’t require a lot of explanation: Here’s a female human/vampire hybrid battling Nazis and vampires and even nazi vampires. The skin-tight outfits, swords, mad scientists, machine-gun battles and sex scenes are just more layers on a big cake of exploitation filmmaking. There’s little subtlety nor substance in a film that barely lasts 79 minutes with lengthy credits: The id of the film is perilously close to the surface, and all that’s left is broad strokes with easy plot elements. At times, there’s a sliver of interest. Clint Howard is curiously compelling as a Nazi doctor who wishes to use vampire blood to make Hitler immortal (sadly, this idea goes nowhere, whereas a better film would have run with it) and he has one fun scene with a randy vampire prostitute. The film occasionally manages to get a chuckle out of sheer desperation, and while the two sex scenes may be wildly gratuitous and intrusive, they do feature a decent amount of nudity –something that’s surprisingly lacking in many contemporary exploitation films. Still, let’s not get overly excited: BloodRayne: The Third Reich is still terrible, whatever the level of filmmaking you’re looking at. Conceptually, it’s completely botched and never manages to use its core plot elements as effectively at it could. The screenwriting is usually fairly bad, immature in the way it overuses swearing, and never duller as when it features the rebel forces that ally themselves with the heroine. Visually, it’s bland from beginning to end: While this not the worst-looking film I’ve seen (even in the last month), it’s not interesting either and the direction does nothing to elevate the material. The action scenes feel particularly uninvolving. I was, maybe curiously enough, expecting considerably worse, and I’m disappointed that this example of Boll’s film isn’t as bad as I had been led to believe. Maybe it’s one of his better movies. I’m not sure I want to make sure of that.