I can't believe the words I'm about to type -- and no doubt, you're going to have a hard time believing them. After all, what I am about to write flies in the face of everything film lovers have come to believe over the last half decade or so. Uwe Boll is not supposed to be a good filmmaker. In fact, most people in the film community consider him to be the worst (although I still contend that this dubious honor belongs to Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg, the talentless maniacs behind almost everything that contains "Movie" in the title). Longtime readers will remember that just two years ago I was publicly screamed at by Herr Boll, and I have never liked or enjoyed any of his movies, save one: In the Name of the King -- and I love that solely for how irredeemably terrible it is. I almost wet myself laughing so hard at it. But I would never -- even in my most inebriated state -- claim that it is in any way good.
But that is exactly what I have to say about Uwe Boll's latest film. It is good. Very good.
Rampage is Uwe Boll's explosive entry onto the moviemaking scene as a real, honest-to-god filmmaker. He's not adapting a property, he's not spoofing anything. Uwe has something to say, something that's been moderately hinted at in his previous works, but is only for the first time really, honestly laid out. This is a film about violence in America, about apocalyptic conspiracy nuts preparing for the end of days, about the gluttony of the American mindset. Uwe Boll has taken his views of American culture and boiled them down into a dangerous, gutsy, brazen film.
Bill is a college burnout loner type sponging off of his parents and slowly getting fed up with everything around him. His parents want to him to move out, his best (and seemingly only) friend is a wacko, and he can't catch a break at his blue-collar job. Life sucks. And in a slow burn build up we watch as Bill gets pushed a little too far, dons a suit of body armor, and slowly, methodically wipes out entire swaths of people in his small suburban town. About the minute 30 mark the guns come out and what follows is brutal, bloody, mean, and altogether gripping. Boll really pulls out all the stops as he cleverly works toward a very deliberate ending while pacing everything just right as to never let us get tired or inured to the bloodshed. He takes plenty of breaks to catch his breath and let the theater settle before returning to the blood-soaked task at hand. And when the dust clears and all is said and done, Boll has delivered one hell of an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride perpetrated by an anti-hero you both thoroughly detest and kind of admire at the same time.
Kind of like Boll himself.
Rampage is not a nice film, nor is it for your garden variety movie viewer. It's frightening, deliberately prods exposed nerves, and is pretty critical of American values and our fondness for violence. While the film isn't openly anti-American, it's not hard to peel the layers to see the harsh critique of our way of life. Occasionally funny, and often razor sharp in its observations, Rampage is a radical departure from the work we've become accustomed to and ultimately ignored for the past few years (Boll's directed and released five films since Postal two years ago, with two more in post-production. Ever heard of them?)
That's not to say that the film isn't without its flaws. There are some bits of dialogue between Bill and his mother in which the mother sounds like she is ad-libbing badly -- punctuating her speech with the ahhhhs and ummmms of someone stammering to find the right words. Also the film features a final title card that is more than a little silly and should be excised before release. It just kind of undoes a lot of what Uwe worked to build, and yet it isn't so bad that it ruins the 90 or so minutes that came before it; it's just a bit of unnecessary spoon-feeding in a film already much smarter than we expect from Boll.
I can't tell you what it was. Was Uwe spoofing us all along, secretly hating the empty silly violence of video games and offering up a kind of parody that he thought video game fans would enjoy anyway? Did he look at American films and honestly think he was making what we really wanted? Or was he really just gaming the system as some have surmised, playing a real life version of The Producers with German tax breaks (that no longer exist)? I don't know. What I do know is that Uwe is not stupid, and he's not an incompetent filmmaker. He's made something solid, memorable, and well worth seeking out.
Rampage has its American premiere on Sunday, Sept. 27, at the Fantastic Fest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.