Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Postal" -- * 1/2

To call "Postal" Uwe Boll's best film to date would be to damn it with faint praise, but is it even that? It's tough to say, though at the least, it's his first movie I've watched all the way through, so I guess that's something. It's a pretty sloppily made movie with awful production values and a screenplay with no sense of coherency; it's only watchable for Boll's determination to throw whatever shit he can think of at us in the hopes something will stick and/or make us outraged. Nothing really does, but the mayhem is diverting enough that I was never bored, just occasionally irritated. It's loosely based on the semi-popular series of video games by Running with Scissors electronics (whose founder makes an awkward cameo appearance here) following a Postal employee who goes... postal. Boll's movie, his first intentional comedy, centers around a similar "postal dude" (oddly, not a postal employee) who is laid off from his job, and teams up with his cult-leader uncle Dave (Dave Foley) to steal Nazi money from a German theme park run by Uwe Boll himself. At the same time, Osama bin Laden (Larry Thomas) -- collaborating with George W. Bush (Brent Mendenhall) -- has a similar plan and, along with his men, is decimating everyone in his way.

The film's tagline "Some comedies go too far... others start there" could not be more appropriate. It starts off trying to shock us into being offended with its opening sequence (the terrorists in flight 11's cockpit on 9/11 arguing over the amount of virgins they'll be getting), and keeps going, that by minute two, we're not actually offended anymore, so we can't help but notice how unfunny all of it is. Sure, if this movie were ever going to be seen on any wide scale, people would be consistently offended. But watching it as a rational person, it has such an obvious, flagrant desire to offend (like a toddler who shits his pants to get attention) that in doing so, you'd really just be giving Boll what he wants and it doesn't seem worth it. By the time (around the halfway mark) Boll stages a sequence of small children getting mowed down by gunshot blasts, it's difficult to muster up anything, let alone outrage.

It uses the image of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center, and the splatter of the remains of a suicide bomber as visual gags. Bush calls Osama on his cell, calling him "you old fucker" and Osama calling him "Georgie." GWB plays with a toy airplane at his desk, crashing it into lego twin towers... hm, okay, that part did make me laugh. Bush and Bin Laden hold hands and skip, and the list goes on. It wants so badly to rouse you, but you become numb to it all right from the beginning. Look at the baby carriage getting run over by a truck. Yawn. A moment when a newscaster delivers a report called "Why the World Trade Center Victims Deserved to Die" perfectly encapsulates the feel of the movie: whether you find that offensive or not, it doesn't even seem like there's a joke in there, just an attempt to piss people off. Fat people are gross. Everyone hates Jews. Female Asian drivers should be killed. All fascinating insights from the inner recesses of Dr. Boll's mind.

But weirdly enough, it's this stuff that registers best in the movie; it may not be particularly funny, but at least it's something we haven't seen before (with good reason). The problem is moreso that Boll takes his time setting up jokes with payoffs so dusty, that they wouldn't pass muster even with Jay Leno. Bush having difficulty spelling? An "I wish I knew how to quit you" joke? Really? Even when he seems to have an inspired idea-- parodying himself as funding his movies with Nazi money-- he feels the need to hammer home the joke, spell it out, and drain it of any possible laughs. Whenever the political content wanes, Boll resorts to hackneyed scatological jokes, such Mini-Me get raped by hundreds of monkeys. Breathtaking. I don't think even Boll could come up with a reason why much of this is in here (Foley's full-frontal scene early on is particularly pointless).

What's most disturbing here is, based on interviews and press notes, Boll seems to think he actually has something to say and that his movie is ground-breaking on some level. He also seems to think the ridiculous ideas expressed in this movie should actually be enacted in real life (the man apparently really thinks female asian drivers should be murdered). He thinks this is incendiary political commentary, and he truly believes the reason that his film's release this weekend was tamped down at the last minute, from the initial 1,500 theaters to FOUR screens, is because the movie was too politically relevent and controversial for theater exhibitors to deal with.

"Postal's" poster brandishes a quote calling it "Live-action 'South Park'!" Well, it is not. "South Park" is clever, funny and well-written. "Postal" just tries to be offensive and think that equates it with "edgy." It doesn't, but it's almost worth watching to satiate one's morbid curiosity and see how far a disturbed filmmaker can go when given enough money to dredge out his inner political thoughts and enact them onscreen. In all honesty, I've always half-admired Boll as a filmmaker and found it inspiring that someone clearly blessed with so little talent and/or worth as a human being keeps stepping back up to the plate with new efforts, resources and determination. I hope, just for the sake of the underdogs, he continues to make movies and get funding, and I'm sure he will; I mean, I also hope when he makes said movies that nobody goes and he continues to lose money consistently, but his continuation of output is positively uplifting. Uwe Boll may be a horrible filmmaker, and an even worse human being, but he embodies what is great about America. That said, if you've never seen one of his movies, now's not the time to start.

"Postal" opens in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles this Friday.


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