Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Postal — Unrated Version

I've managed to resist the temptation to watch a Uwe Boll film now for years. But I finally caved and rented his latest opus, Postal. Yet another video game adaptation, Postal is of course based on the infamous series of games from Running With Scissors, games that remain controversial to this day. With a no-star cast guaranteed to make you jump out of your seat and scream "WHO?!," Postal and its director promised to be a moonshine cocktail of incompetence and unintentional hilarity

Well, it wasn't. Boll can't even fail well. In terms of satirical bite, Postal makes An American Carol look like Rules of the Game. It aims to send up the post-9/11 mentality, which actually isn't that bad an idea. Sure, that sort of thing is extreme gallows humor, but there's no reason not to send up the paranoia and fear that terrible even caused. However, a subject of this emotional weight requires a deft hand to turn into comedy, and Uwe Boll, regularly singled out as perhaps the worst filmmaker of all time, is not the man to do so.

The focus of the story is on our unnamed hero, dubbed The Postal Dude (Zack Ward), who snaps because people annoy him too much and he's sick of his morbidly obese wife cheating on him with everyone in their trailer park. Along the way he must help his uncle Dave (Dave Foley), who is also Uncle Dave, the leader of a doomsday cult, raise $1.7 million in owed taxes. Somehow, he also uncovers a deadly plot by Osama Bin Laden and his best friend, George W. Bush, to infect the children of America with avian flu. If I'm lying, may God strike me down with lightning where I sit.

This film defies belief. In the course of its 102 minutes, you will see a police officer shoot an old Asian lady for driving poorly, a shootout in a welfare office in which cops indiscriminantly kill both attacker and civilian, Verne Troyer sexually assaulted by chimpanzees, a Nazi-themed amusement park, endless child killing, and Dave Foley's penis.

You'd think that the sheer offensiveness of the actions would inspire laughs, certianly not with the material but at it, but it's so childishly scripted that I was too bored to even be outraged. Surprisingly, this isn't a terrible film; it never engages long enough, even negatively, to leave any lasting impact. Boll actually might know a thing or two about directing, and if his other films are as bad as people say (and I take the internet with a large grain of salt), then this is a definite improvement. What a sad statement.


Following that debacle, I decided to put on the director's commentary, partly because I heard crazy things about it but mainly because I wanted to hear this man speak. Thank God I did; all the unintentional humor I was so cruelly denied in the actual film overflows in the commentary.

Be warned: Boll is not at all interesting. He drones on and on, discussing the film and why he thinks it's great. But if you manage to pay attention, this becomes one of the most bizarre, hysterical commentary tracks ever recorded.

In his free-form ramble, Boll manages to espouse polticial opinions; discuss how the sequence with the Asian woman was based on his own hatred of Asian drivers (seriously); insult the D-listers he got to "star" in the film, particularly the weight of his obese actors; rail against Indiana Jones 4, which he claimed was inferior to Postal (he's not wrong, actually); take phone calls that are never patched through the audio so we can hear the person on the other end; and explain the satire to us like it's hidden under layers like a work of Voltaire.

Best of all is his laughable self-martyrdom. Frankly I don't know how he kept answering his phone while he was nailing himself to that cross; it must be a hands-free set. He spends 80% of the commentary bemoaning a system that puts him down, as if he were Orson Welles. Of course, Welles was crushed by a Hollywood that hacked up his films because it didn't understand them, while Boll inexplicably continues to make films despite being despised by all but a small contingent of hyper-ironic anti-hipsters who just want attention.

It is in this state of self-pity that we get some off-hand yet hilariously curious tidbits of info. Did you know Boll wants to make a movie about the Darfur massacre with Charlize Theron and "other celebrities who give to charity," but he can't because nobody with an actual reputation wishes to work with him? The thought of Boll's version of Hotel Rwanda nearly made me lose sleep as I pondered just what it might entail.

Despite his flat tone of voice, this is one of the best commentary tracks ever made, for all the wrong reasons. It plays like the bizarre readings of a madman, the Diary of Anne Idiot. Its overflow of racism, barely researched political opinions and "woe is me" self-pity is utterly captivating in its depiction of a man who teeters the line between ignorant bliss and cold self-awareness. It's almost worth buying the DVD to revisit.

O.K., not even close.

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