Judge Bill Gibron is still trying to figure out if the director's name is pronounced "You-Wee," "Ooo-Vay," or "A-Hole."
Our review of Postal (Blu-Ray), published September 8th, 2008, is also available.
Disgusting. Offensive. Stupid.
Let's try and answer this question once and for all, shall we? Is German filmmaker Uwe Boll, known for such definable disasters as Alone in the Dark, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, and House of the Dead, really the worst director of all time? The truth be told, Boll is no longer just a subpar artist. He's become a cultural icon of the whipping-boy variety. Granted, he's earned every inch of his horrid hack status, but to totally dismiss him as Ed Wood's Teutonic twin does both men a massive disservice. After all, Mr. Glen or Glenda was working with a no-budget handicap. Boll makes his cinematic affronts with the full faith and credit of his homeland's money-saving tax laws. Postal is his latest videogame-based endeavor. It's an obvious grab for gross-out comedy glory aimed directly at the new post-millennial mainstream. As a motion picture, it's garbage. But as a statement to the rest of the film-loving world, it's a gloriously tasteless middle finger.
Facts of the Case
In the tacky town of Paradise, the Dude (Zack Ward, Dead and Gone) lives an awful life. His obese wife spends her days spouting epithets, her nights cheating on him. At his job, his boss is a dick, and all around him the world is falling apart. After getting fired and losing his welfare money, he turns desperate. Unable to take it anymore, he decides to join up with his cult-leader relative, the drug-addled sex fiend Uncle Dave (Dave Foley, Newsradio). Together, they plan on robbing a local amusement park of its valuable Krotchy Dolls. Meanwhile, Osama Bin Laden (Larry Thomas, Seinfeld) and his Al-Qaeda cohorts are plotting the very same thing. Their eventual confrontation will result in massive bloodshed, lots of freshly killed corpses, and more than a few ethnic and intellectual slurs, just to keep things politically and personally tense. Oh, yeah, and Verne Toyer shows up as his pissed-off self.
There's a major difference between being comically irreverent and simply provoking controversy. Somewhere, in some Ivy League-educated humor think tank, overpaid wit maestros are probably trying to find a way to make the events of Sept. 11th, the War on Terror, and the continuing failure of Bush's foreign policy into a sensational cinematic satire. They've rejected scripts like John Cusack's War, Inc. and avoided self-important screeds like Morgan Spurlock's Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? while trying to discover the secret of turning tragedy into rib tickling. Even on their darkest day, however, they couldn't come up with the outright assault that is Uwe Boll's unbelievable epic of bad taste, Postal. Sure, it's supposedly based on a video game and continues the muddled maverick's nonstop assault on film convention and conservatism, but his approach here is so blatant and broad that we aren't sure if he's in love with America and its amateur superpower status or if he actually finds hot-button issues like the Holocaust funny.
That's right, nothing is sacred in the good doctor's eyes—not the attacks on the World Trade Center, not the concept of organized religion (and its cracked cult offspring), not his homeland's horrific treatment of six million Jews. One can hear his defense in the surrealistic frames of the failed political parody—something akin to "F-'em if they can't take a joke"—and for a while, we support the stance Postal takes. After all, laughter is sometimes the best uncomplicated curative. But somewhere along the line, Boll forgot to add the gags. Instead, we are stuck watching former Christmas Story villain Zack Ward do his best 'roid rage Carrot Top impression. While a fine actor in his own right, the artist formerly known as Scut Farkus can't compete with Postal's preplanned belligerence. Again, Boll's intentions are crystal clear. Nothing is sacred nor should it be, and, if anyone complains, they're simply incapable of making light of themselves. By making himself a target and mocking the Internet rumors about his films, Boll hopes to show what a good sport he is. Sadly, the rest of his torn-up targets aren't around to defend themselves like he can.
With a track record that suggests that everything he touches turns to turds, it's amazing that Uwe continues to attract name celebrity attention. While this is no Name of the King company (that cast remains a mind blower), we still get snippets of Ward, former Kids in the Hall member Dave Foley, Seymour Cassel, David Huddleston, Verne Troyer, J. K. Simmons, and Michael Paré. Of course none really play characters, but contractually obligated shadows of their formerly famous selves. The dialogue is all disagreements and put downs, and the level of hilarity runs around the Jokes from the John level of invention. There is a scene where our crazy religious cult decides to fulfill a fake biblical prophecy. So they stick Troyer in a tank of CGI monkeys, the better to allow the anal violation to begin. That's right—Postal thinks having a little person raped by a bunch of apes is the height of creativity. The main failure of this film is directly within the screenplay. The extended sequence at Little Germany, complete with tossed-off bits about the "Dr. Mengele First Aid Station" and "Concentration Camp Playground" is indicative of the way in which our filmmaker forces faux funny right into your face.
Still, none of this addresses the competence of Boll behind the camera. When people discuss his career, he is always listed among the medium's worst. He sits alongside such frequently marginalized names as Wood Jr., Paul W. S. Anderson, and Coleman Francis, and, frankly, only the last load deserves the disrespect. Boll is not a bad filmmaker, nor an inherently incompetent director. His problem is one of attitude. Most of the time, his movies feel contemptible and intellectually limited. He goes for the cheapest element he can, be it humor, horror, or heroics. Nothing is inventive or inspired. Everything is merely mediocre and obvious. When the opening-act hijackers learn that the number of virgins they've been promised has significantly reduced in number, they decide to go to the Bahamas. While Uncle Dave envisions a utopian world based on his own theological teachings, he's really secretly shacking up with naked chicks, partying like it's 1999. The Postal Dude's wife is a sickeningly obese cow who shouts out orders like a soiled shrew, and Osama Bin Laden is portrayed as a plain-speaking nice guy who constantly calls on his best buddy Bush to get him out of trouble.
But all of these elements are part of the script, not facets of Boll's cinematic language. Indeed, he's not a bad moviemaker from a technical sense. Postal is well-framed, always in focus, efficiently edited, and not without its proto-punk rock charms. Boll seems relieved to be going goofball. In some ways, Postal is the purest reflection of what he would do outside the limitations of his ever-present videogame source material. While the narrative does touch on some of the console title's more telling bits, the violence is toned way, way down, and there is much more plot here—perhaps too much. Boll seems lost in his own ideas, so much so that he skips the stuff that makes the game so popular. In fact, Postal could technically be called the first "good" Uwe Boll movie, which in some ways is stating that getting hit by a rock is substantially better than being beaten with a baseball bat. Both hurt, but the pain of the former lingers a lot less than that of the latter. Besides, this is the kind of movie ready to be embraced by a legion of onlookers claiming that Boll has been unfairly ridiculed and that Postal proves his ballsy brazenness.
Originally planned as counter-programming to Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Postal ended up getting a very limited theatrical release before now arriving on DVD a mere two months later. Vivendi Visual does a really nice job with this package, providing both good tech specs and some nifty added content to up the merchandising factors. The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image is color and clean, the typical Boll polish present and accounted for. While some may question his aesthetic acumen, the good doctor's movies usually look professional, and Postal is no exception. On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is mediocre at best. There is very little use of the back speakers, and even less immersion. Luckily, the dialogue is easily discernible and the meandering musical score (faux classical to nu-metal) comes across loud and clear. While the box lists this version of Postal as "Unrated," this seems to be the same version that played internationally. There is no more bloodshed, and Dave Foley's entire minute of full frontal nudity (penis dangling included) is present and accounted for.
The biggest surprises though might just be the added content. Vivendi provides a second disc containing the full version of the Postal 2: Share the Pain game. It's only playable on the PC, however. As standard first person shoot-em-ups go, it's a lot more fun than the film. Elsewhere, Boll is present for a wonderfully confrontational commentary. He takes on the critics, champions his choices, and more or less defends everything he's done for the last decade. If you like the sound of insanity channeled through a Berlin brogue, you'll love this discussion. We are also treated to Vern Troyer's challenge to Indiana Jones, a look at the Postal trailer, a segment showing Boll boxing a few of his critics (literally), and a behind-the-scenes featurette which captures cast and crew cutting up inside the Little Germany amusement park set. All in all, the supplements surpass the main feature in entertainment value and effectiveness.
Postal is bound to get message board tongues wagging. It will be the dividing line between Boll apologists and those who remain appalled by his oeuvre. It's not the cinematic stool sampling of his previous creative canon, but it definitely doesn't deserve the praise it's been getting inside the online critical community. Somewhere between a cult conversation piece and an assault on one's intelligence, Postal proves that some filmmakers are destined to remain forever locked in their already established reputations. To call this the best film Dr. Uwe Boll has ever made is faint praise indeed. Sadly, it may also be the truth.
Guilty and not guilty. The movie may be a painful experience in purposeful confrontation, but the DVD offers some interesting bonus features which tend to fill up the enjoyment void.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
• Second Disc Featuring Complete PC Videogame--Postal 2: Share the Pain
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