To be honest, I didn't know what to expect when I was invited to an early screening of Uwe Boll's latest film, Postal. Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I have never experienced an Uwe Boll film. Perhaps it's because Boll has never touched any of my most beloved game franchises. Looking at his past films, it appears he hasn't made as many films to justify the fervor that surrounds him. Is anyone really angry that the House of the Dead film wasn't A-grade cinematic material? Is the film somehow a disgrace to the game's "legacy?" Doubtful. Are people really up-in-arms over how he "ruined" BloodRayne, or Alone in the Dark?
Postal is also an interesting choice for the German director. Very few have actually played the game (neither have I) -- but those that have don't really like it. Even if the film amounted to a terrible disaster, it wouldn't disgrace the game, or the "genre" of the video game film (if such a thing should be considered). With all of this in mind, the curtains opened and Uwe Boll's Postal screening started.
The film opens with two terrorists in the cockpit of a plane. Already, the film attempts to provoke a response in a scene that's clearly evocative of the September 11th attacks. As a New Yorker, it felt distasteful, but at the same time, I understood that this was exactly the kind of feeling Boll wanted to get from the audience. The two terrorists argue the number of virgins they can sleep with in the afterlife, only to realize that perhaps their mission is just a sham. They call Osama bin Laden, and see that instead of the 100 (or 99) virgins they were expecting, they'd most likely only get a dozen. Split between the two of them for all of eternity, those wouldn't be virgins for long. Proclaiming the reward insufficient, the hijackers decide to turn the plane around, but only moments before an angry mob of civilians breaks through and crashes the plane into the World Trade Center.
The irreverent bickering of the two hijackers in arguably the most tragic moment of modern American history becomes the foundation for a potentially edgy dark comedy that dares to tackle the most sensitive issues of our culture. However, the film devolves to an amateurish slapstick comedy that rarely shocks the audience as it so successfully does in its opening scene.
Perhaps the story doesn't offer Postal a chance to really do much. It's hard to imagine anyone sane possibly coming up with a plot that ties American hillbilly life, suicidal scam cults, popular phallic children's dolls, the Holocaust, and Al-Qaeda into one coherent story. Regardless, Uwe Boll attempts to craft a story so all-encompassing that it ultimately says nothing at all.
"Dude," the film's unnamed protagonist is unemployed, stuck in a trailer park in the suburban town of Paradise. After a streak of bad luck, Dude loses his cool and decides to meet up with his brother, who runs a scam cult organization that quickly runs into trouble with the law. The cult, millions of dollars in debt due to unpaid taxes, decides to steal a very limited batch of Crotchdolls from a nearby Nazi-themed park, run by Uwe Boll. Unfortunately, Al Qaeda is also on the look for these lucrative Crotchdolls, which go for thousands of dollars online (the dolls also coincidentally contain vials of the avian bird flu).
"Did I ever want to see Dave Foley's penis while he relieves himself in the bathroom? Not really."
Other than the opening plane hijacking sequence, only one other scene really challenges the taboos of filmmaking. In one of the film's big gunfights in the Little Germany theme park, the camera zooms exclusively on the innocent children being slaughtered in the crossfire. Bullets burst out of the kids, as they fall to the floor, dead or wincing in pain. It's a horrible sight, but Postal does it with such enthusiastic fanfare. We wish the rest of the film could be as daring.
Uwe Boll does make an appearance in the film, in one of the strangest meta moments in a film I have ever seen. The on-screen Boll introduces himself as a filmmaker, one that has enraged critics through his continued adaptations of video game movies. He explains how he's able to finance his films, and the Little Germany theme park: through Nazi gold, obviously.
How does Boll die? He gets shot in the crotch.
Seeing Boll call himself a pedophile, only to get killed by having his genitalia riddled with bullets will undoubtedly sell a few tickets to the Boll-haters. Breaking the fourth wall to such an extreme, where the director himself talks to his most vocal critics -- that certainly must be celebrated. It's in moments like these where Postal best succeeds, and reminds us that Boll probably isn't as horrible as the internet paints him out to be.
Unfortunately, Boll's latest film, Postal, is not the worst movie in the world. However, this is a problem. For a film that's supposed to challenge our expectations with an in-your-face display of extreme debauchery, Postal is surprisingly tame. As the credits rolled and the critics and myself walked out of the theater, there wasn't a sense of anger, nor disappointment. Rather, we walked away yawning, bored. Perhaps if the movie were as bad as Boll critics had predicted, I'd write a fiery diatribe against the film's release. Instead, I'm left wondering why the filmmaker continues to get as much attention as he does. Certainly, Postal wasn't bad (nor good) enough to warrant such passion. Maybe I'm missing something.