PostalReviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 05/23/08 14:11:49
Having made some of the most unintentionally hilarious films to come along in recent years--including such epics as “Alone in the Dark” (featuring Tara Reid as an allegedly brilliant archaeologist who nevertheless cannot correctly pronounce “Newfoundland” properly), “Bloodrayne” (featuring Sir Ben “Thunderbirds” Kingsley sporting one of the oddest hairpieces in cinema history) and “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale” (featuring Ray Liotta as a diabolical wizard who nevertheless dresses like he was still starring in “Goodfellas” and who gets to deliver a speech that opens with the deathless phrase “Funny thing about Krug. . .”), the idea of the infamous Uwe Boll making a deliberate comedy sounds like the cinematic equivalent of bringing coals to Newcastle. And yet, while he has made his name (for lack of a better phrase) in recent years for directing shoddy screen adaptations of video games, I seem to recall that he has claimed in the past that his first love was comedy--his 1991 debut was the as-yet-unreleased-in-these-parts spoof “German Fried Movie” --and the interviews that he has given over the years about his work have been so cheerfully over-the-top in his confidence in his own redoubtable gifts and his condemnation of practically everyone else that you have to assume that he has some sense of humor about his work and his standing in the film world. As a result, when I sat down to watch his latest effort, the dark comedy “Postal,” it was with a certain degree of genuine interest to see what he might come up with when he was trying to be funny. Well, having seen “Postal,” all I can say is that, based on those results, if comedy is indeed his first love, I would hate to see how he treats his second love, whatever that might be. Imagine what “Catch-22” might have been like if it had been written by that creepy grade-school classmate of yours who was always talking about how cool it would be to stick a cherry bomb under that dead squirrel he found on the side of the road and you will have a vague idea of just how ugly and wrong-headed this would-be satire really is.Based on a once-notorious and now-forgotten video game that cause a brief ruckus because of its hyper-violent action (imagine “Grand Theft Auto” without the wit or gameplay), “Postal” kicks off with a scene that seems designed to cause more sensitive viewers to run from the theater in appalled disbelief--a bit set in the cockpit of one of the 9/11 planes that kicks off with two of the hijackers discovering to their dismay that the promised number of available afterlife virgins is far less than advertised and ends with a shot of the plane crashing into the World Trade Center from the point-of-view of a hapless window washer. From there, we are taken to the dismal town of Paradise and are introduced to a hapless and unemployed loser known as Dude (Zack Ward) who, during the course of one hideous day, endures a humiliating job interview, discovers that his grotesquely overweight and hateful wife is unfaithful to him, steps in doggie-do and is harassed by a violent panhandler (Michael Pare, a long, long way from the glory that was “Streets of Fire.”) In desperation, he turns to his Uncle Dave (Dave Foley, a long, long way from the glory that was “Brain Candy”), a self-styled religious guru who preaches the joys of “Organic Monotheism” to an adoring throng of half-naked babes.
Alas, it turns out that Uncle Dave is also hard up for cash--he owes $1.3 million in back taxes to the I.R.S.--but while he doesn’t have any money to speak of, he does have an idea of how to get it in a hurry. It seems that 2000 of the hottest and most difficult-to-find toys in the country--something called the Krotchy Doll--are about to be sold at the local Little Germany amusement park. Since they are fetching astronomical prices on eBay, Dave figures that if they can steal the lot of them, they can make a fortune off of them. It turns out that Mohammed (Michael Benyaer), the chief aide to Osama bin Laden (Larry Thomas, a long, long way from the glory that was the Soup Nazi on “Seinfeld”), also covets the dolls as a means of spreading avian bird flu across the country in order to wipe out America once and for all. The two groups find themselves battling for possession of the dolls amidst a shower of bullets, blood and body parts so excessive that even Lloyd Kaufman, the erstwhile head of the notorious sleazo Troma Films empire, might find himself thinking that it is all a little too much.
The idea of making a no-holds-barred comedy at a time of strife and chaos in order to show just how insane things have become is nothing new--films as varied as “Duck Soup,” “To Be or Not to Be,” “Dr Strangelove,” “M*A*S*H,” “Little Murders,” “Network,” “Heathers,” “Natural Born Killers” and “South Park” shocked and amused audiences in their respective days (and beyond) with the ways in which they deftly portrayed the surreal times from which they sprang. Of course, this was because they were made by people who had something important that they wanted to say and possessed a clear vision of how to get that point across with a mixture of humor, horror and genuine anger at how messed up things had become. “Postal,” on the other hand, lacks that sense of clarity. In essence, it is basically a “Hellzapoppin”-style revue that brings together any numbers of tasteless jokes and images strung together with only the most tenuous of plot threads. As the film goes on, we get to see such random things as a psychotic African-American cop blowing the head off of an Asian woman who can’t speak English because he thinks that she might have uttered the “n” word, inexplicable cameos from J.K. Simmons, Seymour Cassel and Dave Foley’s penis, a gory shootout in a welfare office, a behind-the-scenes look at the production of one of bin Laden’s propaganda videos, an extended cameo from Boll himself as the owner of the Little Germany park, who cheerfully admits that all of his work is funded with Nazi gold (an actual rumor surrounding the apparently questionable financing of his films) and who pays one of his guests with gold teeth, a shootout in which dozens of small children are gunned down in graphic close-ups, a cameo from the creator of the original “Postal” game who exacts a fitting revenge of Boll for ruining his work, a cat being used as a silencer for a gun (don’t worry--he survives with nary a scratch) the sight of Verne Troyer unwillingly fulfilling a prophecy involving a midget entertainer being raped by 1000 monkeys and a final image of George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden skipping through a field hand-in-hand in a bit that manages to evoke the endings of both “Dr. Strangelove” and “Casablanca.”
While I suspect that many of you might question the intrinsic humor of any of the elements listed above, I am willing to concede that, with the possible exception of Dave Foley’s penis, most of this material could plausibly be spun off into something amusing in the right hands. Unfortunately, while Boll seems to have no problem in coming up with one outrageous idea after another, he largely fails to supply them with anything resembling a point or a point of view that would help shape them into something actually funny and as a result, we are left with one sequence after another in which repellent things happen to horrible people that we are supposed to be laughing without quite understanding why they are supposed to be funny in the first place. The only scene that comes close to working at all is the aforementioned opening aboard the 9/11 plane--although awesomely tasteless and not particularly funny, this bit actually has a coherent premise and a logical conclusion and while I didn’t actually laugh at it at all, it did suggest that Boll might have had something interesting on his mind at one point before putting it aside for the haphazardly designed and executed garbage that he used to fill out the rest of the running time. (If you want to see this particular sequence for yourself but want to spare yourself the indignity of actually shelling out money to see it, this opening sequence can be found in all its glory on YouTube.)As some of you may or may not know, in the wake of the release of “Bloodrayne” in 2006, Uwe Boll challenged some of his most ardent critics to go a few round with him in the boxing ring with the fights supposedly being filmed for inclusion in “Postal.” (No such footage appears in the film, possibly because even Boll failed to recognize the cinematic value of a trained fighter like himself smacking around a few people who were led to believe that the whole thing was a joke until they stepped into the ring.) My guess is that once the word on this film gets out, Boll will be ready to select a new wave of opponents. Although I don’t box at all, I would like to take this opportunity to volunteer my services to go up against him on the theory that no matter how hard he hits me, it can’t possibly hurt worse than the pain inflicted by “Postal.”
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