Vivendi Visual Entertainment // 2008 // 102 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // September 8th, 2008
Disgusting. Offensive. Stupid.
After the huge success of Grand Theft Auto III, the makers of the videogame Postal decided to create a sequel that would trade in on some of the wanton destruction of the more famous franchise. With very little plot, simple missions (get paycheck, cash paycheck, buy milk), and the potential for random violence against passersby, Postal 2 incited a fair amount of media attention. With even more black humor (and less plot to provide a "reason" for the violence), Postal 2 became a lightning rod for criticism following outbreaks of violence at schools and postal centers. All of this made it the perfect target for perennial videogame adapter Uwe Boll. The controversy works as instant (and free) PR; the lack of plot gave Mr. Boll carte blanche to write film without pissing off the faithful (as he did by significantly altering the plots and characters of other franchises he's handled); and, finally, the ultra-violence of the game plays to Boll's strength as an experienced coordinator of cinematic violence. On paper it's the perfect Boll film. If only that meant it was worth watching.
Postal Dude (Zack Ward, Transformers) lives in the tiny town of Paradise. He can't get a job, his overweight wife is sleeping around, and he lives in a trailer park. Something has to give. Enter Uncle Dave (Dave Foley, The Kids in the Hall), a cult leader who wants to steal a shipment of popular dolls so he can sell them to pay his IRS debt. Sadly, Osama Bin Laden and his crew are also after these toys for reasons of their own, and Postal Dude is caught in the middle.
This is usually the place I would start talking about the film, Postal. However, this time I want to discuss one of the extras first, since it sheds light on the film even better than I could. The extra to which I allude is "Raging Boll: The Director Boxes his Critics." Back in the summer of 2006, Boll (renowned for the hatred he inspires in reviewers) challenged his harshest critics to ten rounds in the ring. Many thought it was just a publicity stunt, but Golden Palace sponsored the event, and critics from places like Something Awful and Ain't It Cool News stepped into the ring with Boll (a trained amateur boxer). On this Blu-ray disc we get to see these fights in all their pathetic glory. Boll, a trained fighter, looks like a malevolent bastard as he stalks around the ring, taking his critical lambs to the proverbial slaughter.
This sad spectacle tells us a lot about Uwe Boll. The stereotype of the stupid boxer is misplaced. Being a top boxer requires intelligence to match the strength of any punch. While most great boxers may be intelligent, they are not know for being articulate (Muhammad Ali excepted). Their intelligence and eloquence are channeled into their fists and footwork. The same could be said of Uwe Boll. He's obviously not stupid (you don't get the kind of money he does by being entirely brainless). In fact, his commentaries reveal that he has some interesting ideas. The problem is he doesn't know how to communicate them to his audience; he's almost totally inarticulate in the cinematic medium. So, instead of writing a passionate defense of his films, or proving his critics wrong by producing a film that he knew they couldn't dislike, he decides to abandon words and art and go for punching them in the face.
What does this have to do with Postal? Above I said that Postal had tremendous potential for Boll as a director. However, it is his most inarticulate film. Boll obviously wants to shatter taboos and comment on American culture. However, instead of launching a coherent critique of American foreign policy, consumer capitalism, or evangelical fraud, Boll mixes silly violence and juvenile (and unsophisticated) humor to vent spleen. He's got a cult leader who's only in it for the money and chicks. That's original. Osama and Bush are really friends who like to hold hands. How cute (and utterly unfunny).
I'm not against silliness (and let's face it, Osama and Bush holding hands and traipsing through a field is silly). I think that the Monty Python troupe (Terry Gilliam, especially) has been waging a (successful) war on oppressive cultures with their unique brand of whimsy. However, unlike the Pythons, Boll is completely unable to translate his ideas into cinema. The image of Bush and Osama fails to communicate anything of substance. Is Boll trying to say that Osama and Bush are in collusion? If so, by making a joke out of it he is seriously undermining the work of journalists who are currently trying to prove links between Bush and the Bin Laden family. Is he trying to say they're gay? If so, that's irrelevant and not terribly funny.
Honestly, I don't know what Boll's trying to say with Postal, and the reader way wonder why I'm taking the film so seriously. I'm only addressing these issues because Boll himself seems to think this film is some kind of political masterpiece. If Boll thought it was just another movie, then I'd probably just say it was boring and unfunny and leave it at that.
I will give Boll some credit for Postal. If all you're looking for is a weird "bad" movie to make you laugh with some friends, then Postal may deliver. I also have to give Boll credit for crafting a few interesting fight sequences. The action in Postal is better edited than anything else I've seen from the maestro.
I'll also give the actors some credit. They're all game for the kind of crap Boll is trying to make. The director claims that the major talent agencies told him that their stars would not be in a film like Postal, so Boll had to dig deep to get his cast. He largely succeeds in providing interesting performances.
This Blu-ray release also gives the film a decent presentation (probably
better than it deserves). The transfer retains the gritty, low-budget origins of
the film. The audio has some balance issues with the gunfire and dialogue, but
it's not a total loss. The extras include the aforementioned "Raging
Boll" footage, as well as a short spot with Verne Troyer as Indiana Jones
(Postal was originally intended as counter-programming to that
franchise's latest release). The other major extra is a commentary with Boll. He
discusses his grand vision for the movie, as well as its production. His
commentary is funnier than the film because he actually takes Postal
seriously. Finally, this two-disc set includes a copy of
Postal 2 for PC as the second disc. The back of the box promises "much more," but darn if I could find it.
Postal is a stupid, incoherent jumble of a film. Boll is obviously trying to tell us something, but the film makes it impossible to decipher his message. The presentation on this Blu-ray disc is fine, but the film should really be avoided by anyone but diehard Boll aficionados.
Guilty. Postal should be returned to sender unopened.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* DTS HD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 102 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* "Raging Boll"
* Commentary by Uwe Boll
* Verne Troyer as Indiana Jones