- Uwe Boll
- Jason Statham, Leelee Sobieski, Burt Reynolds, Ray Liotta
- 127 min.
- Release Date
Uwe Boll has made so many videogame-to-film adaptations, he puts Paul W.S. Anderson to shame. Boll specializes in nonsensical disasters like House of the Dead, Alone in the Dark, and BloodRayne. In fact, though I’ve spurned Anderson’s brand of high-action and no-brains in the past, I’d happily take his Resident Evil over any Boll dreck without complaint. Any hammy direct-to-DVD slop on Blockbuster’s sheves surpasses Boll’s curiously turgid work. I would do Ed Wood an injustice if I claimed the two were similar.
A week or so before viewing Boll’s latest, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, I did some research and found the movie sports a running time of 150-minutes. I asked myself, “Can this be correct?” Boll’s movies generally hover around 90-minutes; the concept of enduring double-sized filmic wretchedness panicked me. I found myself obsessively checking imdb.com, Moviefone, and Rottentomatoes for an updated, for-the-love-of-god-please shorter running time. All listed 150-minutes. Alas, I attended my screening believing my 150-minutes would be gone forever, wallowing somewhere in Time-loss Hell between watching Battlefield: Earth and dieting.
Much to my giddy enchantment, Boll’s movie ended after 2-hours. Apparently, the longer running time represents the Director’s Cut, in distribution theatrically across Europe (suckers), and later planned for DVD. Incommunicable joy struck me when titles reading “A Uwe Boll Film” announced the closing credits a half-hour early. Think of all I could do! My taxes. Clip my fingernails. Clean out the freezer. My time was freed-up and I was genuinely ecstatic. …Thus concludes my positive reactions to this film.
Though perhaps I shouldn’t exclaim my dissatisfaction too stridently; Boll doesn’t take kindly to bad criticism. In 2006, the director began a self-aggrandizing publicity stunt entitled “Raging Boll”, where he challenged five online critics to a boxing match to prove he’s angry about his movies sucking. He proved it alright—the critics were beaten (we’re not known for our physical prowess), while Boll was forever proved humorless and incapable of doing the professional thing and taking the bad reviews into consideration.
Based on the popular role-playing game “Dungeon Siege”, Boll’s latest begins in a kingdom where Burt Reynolds rules as King Konreid. Jason Statham is a farmer named, you guessed it, Farmer; luckily he’s the only character named for his occupation. After Farmer’s little boy is killed and wife kidnapped by the evil “magus” Gallian (Ray Liotta), he sets out to retrieve her with his trusty boomerang by his side—oh, and his friends played by Ron Perlman and Will Sanderson too, but mostly his boomerang. Gallian schemes his way into the King’s castle, thanks to the help of the King’s corrupt and sniveling nephew (Matthew Lillard, overacting per usual), amassing a devoted army of goons called Krug to carry out his bidding.
Grossly miscast is, well… okay, everyone is miscast, right down to using Putties from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers for the Krug. Let’s look first at Ray Liotta, whose presence is so out of place in this movie, we have no choice but to think Boll’s casting director was either blind or missed Unlawful Entry. His Gallian character swirls smoky magic about, occasionally floating on wires to accentuate his power (I tell you, I’m hard-pressed to think of anything funnier than Ray Liotta soaring like Storm from X-Men). Liotta is a fine actor to be sure, just look at Goodfellas or Narc, but he’s not built for sword and sorcery epics (at least try to give us the customary British accent). Whether dolled-up like Liberace in a sequined cloak or showing off his long black leather jacket from the Trenchcoat Mafia (see photo above), he looks out of place, and overacts his villainy to boot.
Jason Statham is a curious addition, as he brings all his moves from The Transporter to this fictional kingdom, to deliver justice to Gallian’s Putties with full martial arts intensity. Emotionally empty in the bulk of his work, Statham is no fantasy hero; empathizing with him is like trying to identify with a hammer. But there are equally vacant performances by Claire Forlani, Brian White, Leelee Sobieski, and everyone else involved. Did they read the script? Was Uwe Boll directing to be a surprise the producers revealed on the first day of shooting? Why did any of these relatively big-name actors agree to this? And what were producers thinking when they provided Boll with a $60 million budget.
For almost every major plot point or character, there is a corresponding one taken from Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Sobieski’s Muriella is “just a girl” who rebels against sexism to put on armor and fight, just as Miranda Otto’s Eowyn did in LOTR. Our scruffy hero Farmer is destined to be King, just as out scruffy hero Aragorn was destined to be King. Putties for Orcs. Tree People for Wood Elves. Rainy battles on inclined terrains. Boll steals everything without apology, and does a third-rate job of it. I suspect the In the Name of the King-portion of the title was added to the videogame’s original name, just to give it that epic title length Jackson proved classy.
The Asylum produces direct-to-DVD rip-offs like Snakes on a Train, Alien Vs. Hunter, The Da Vinci Treasure, Transmorphers, and I Am Omega. Yet nowhere on the credits could I find their hammy mark. Surprising. Actually distributing Boll’s film is Freestyle Releasing, which isn’t much better than The Asylum. Freestyle dispenses such filmic gems as Dragon Wars (D-War), 2007’s shoo-in for Worst Film of the Year. None of this shocks me, since In the Name of the King outdoes even One Missed Call’s badness, surely earning a place among 2008’s worst. Saddening, as it’s only January.