Friday, May 24, 2013

Movie Review: Assault on Wall Street

Assault on Wall Street
Directed by: Uwe Boll.
Written by: Uwe Boll.
Starring: Dominic Purcell (Jim Baxford), Erin Karpluk (Rosie Baxford), Edward Furlong (Sean), John Heard (Jeremy Stancroft), Keith David (Freddy), Michael Paré (Frank), Lochlyn Munro (Robert), Tyron Leitso (Spalding Smith), Mike Dopud (Tom Allgard), Barclay Hope (Ian Marwood), Heather Feeney (Mary Jean), Eric Roberts (Lawyer Patterson), Michaela Mann (Myra), Maurice Cherrie (Nate), Clint Howard (Chuck).

I have never been one of those movie fans who watch movies that are “so bad they’re good”. To me, these films are just plain awful, and I don’t derive much pleasure in watching horrible movies just to laugh at the incompetence that went into making them. The current poster child of “So Bad its Good” movies has to be Uwe Boll – the German filmmaker who has often been referred to as his generation’s Ed Wood – a completely incompetent filmmaker who thinks he’s making masterpieces. Over the years, somehow I managed to see a few of his films – perhaps the worst school shooting movie ever made in Heart of America (2002), some of his many video game adaptations – Alone in the Dark (2005), Bloodrayne (2005), In the Name of the King (2006) and Postal (2007) – which also happened to be a comedy that opens with a joke between terrorists as they fly into the WTC on 9/11 and ends with Osama Bin Laden and George W. Bush holding hands and skipping and mushroom clouds appear in the background. And then, I just stopped watching Boll’s films. Part of the reason is that I didn’t really hear about any of his films after Postal – and in the six years between that film and his latest, Assault on Wall Street, he made 12 of them – including one about the Vietnam War, one about Darfur and a documentary about Auschwitz, among several sequels to his video game movies and something called Blubberella. Somehow Boll kept getting films made – at the rate of two per year – but no one was really talking about them. For the most part, I was grateful for that.

Boll’s latest film, Assault on Wall Street, is probably the best movie of his I have seen. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a horrible movie, but it isn’t as incompetent as the other films of his I have seen – that are often completely incoherent, and seem to be shot and edited by people who have no idea what they’re doing. It seems like after more than 20 years – at a pace of more than a film a year – Boll has finally mastered the basics of filmmaking that most directors have demonstrate in some form or another before they make their first film. So, Assault on Wall Street wouldn’t make for good watching for those who want to see something “so bad it’s good”. Other than the ending of the film, nothing quite rises to that level of laughably awful. It’s just plain old, regular awful.

The movie stars a square jawed, mostly silent, expressionless Domenic Purcell as Jim Baxford. He’s a war veteran, and current security guard on an armored truck. His wife Rosie (Erin Karpluk) has been diagnosed with cancer a year ago, and had to stop working. Her cancer is gone, but she still requires some expensive treatments to make her well again. But now, his insurance company has stopped paying – saying he’s reached his “cap limit”. He has some savings invested in the market – which he specifically asked to be placed in non-risky investments. But his broker and his firm didn’t follow his directions – and now his money is all gone. Not only that, he somehow owes them money. He can file a lawsuit, but he needs money for that as well. Plus, he starts putting all his wife’s treatments on their credit card. Bill collectors start calling, and he loses his job. His wife takes drastic action to stop being a burden to him. And he goes completely off the deep end.

The first hour of the movie is pretty much a screed against the greed of Wall Street – how they do everything to protect themselves, pocket bonuses, and then ask for a handout from the government when things go to shit – and get them – while the little guy gets nothing. Boll, of course, has a point here. But it’s almost comical how much crap hits Baxford at the same time. Everything that could possibly go wrong goes horribly, horribly wrong. Not even Job had it this tough.

The last half hour has Baxford doing the only logical thing – go on a killing spree, that ends with the kind of mass shooting you would think movies could no longer portray as heroic in the wake of Aurora and Newton – or basically any mass shooting, ever (spoiler alert – they still can). The whole mass shooting is justified – even after the fact – by the movie and all leads to the most ridiculous showdown of the year between Baxford and Jeremy Stancroft (John Heard), the Wall Street CEO he holds the most responsible for his downfall.

Assault on Wall Street is a terrible film. I cannot think of one redeeming quality in the film. Purcell is almost a non-presence in the film. And the supporting cast – Edward Furlong, Keith David, Michael Pare, Eric Roberts etc. leave no impression either. Even if you’re much more militant in your hatred of Wall Street than I am, I find it hard that you could actually enjoy this movie on any level.

But, in the six years since I last saw a Boll film, he has improved – at least in terms of making his movie coherent, both visually and in terms of story (the story may be completely unbelievable, but you can at least tell what the hell is happening this time). Perhaps one day - after another 20 or 30 films - Boll will make a good film. Nah, probably not.

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