Friday, 25 April 2008

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007)

Jason Statham as a medieval kung fu master? Only in an Uwe Boll film

I'm what you might call a Boll fan. His movies are terrible obviously, but it warms my heart to see that in this age of bloated, glossy Hollywood blockbusters, such consistently terrible low-budget films can still see cinematic release. There's a lot of comparison to Ed Wood, and I can see why. He really thinks he is making good films. But then he goes on youtube and calls himself the "only genius in the whole fucking business", and I wonder if his pride is all just a PR stunt.

My first taste of Boll was House of the Dead, a film that was so terrible I woke up the next morning wondering if it was all just a dream. Surely the film didn't have gameplay footage spliced into action sequences? It was like glimpsing into the mind of a madman. Since then I've eagerly awaited each Boll film. Well, not enough to pay for a ticket, but I've watched them on DVD. Which brings us to In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale.

While I was under no illusion that this film was going to be good (I'd seen the trailer) I was scared that it would be mediocre, which is even worse. I needn't have worried. All of Boll's signature touches are present and accounted for. The lousy scene transitions, the contempt for basic storytelling and laughable dialogue, he even manages to one-up the ridiculous cast of Bloodrayne. Just look at this: Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Leelee Sobieski, Ron Perlman, Claire Forlani, Kristanna Loken, John Rhys-Davies, Mathew Lillard and Burt fucking Reynolds as the titular king. What the fuck? Did Boll go to an awards ceremony and just start firing wildly into the crowd with a tranquiliser gun? They actors woke up on a cheap set somewhere in Canada with Boll waving incriminating photos in their face. Most of these guys are not even phoning it in, they're getting their personal assistant to send a text message: "Ths is my prfrmnce ok :-)"

The film opens with Leelee Sobieski making googly eyes in bed with Ray Liotta (ew). She is Muriella, the daughter of magus Merrick (Rhys-Davies), and is receiving forbidden magical instruction from evil sorceror Gallian (Liotta). Gallian is amassing an army of budget orcs called the "Krugs", and has managed to get the layabout Duke Fallow (Lillard) to side with him against the noble King Konreid (Reynolds), with aims to overthrow the kingdom.

Meanwhile Farmer (Statham) is busy farming (duh) with his wife (Forlani) and blonde moppet of a son. Lord-of-the-Rings-ish pan-pipe music plays so we know they are living a happy, simple life, but his world is thrown into turmoil when their peaceful village falls victim to a Krug attack. His son is killed and wife kidnapped, so he, along with his buddy Norick (Ron Perlman) and brother-in-law Legolas, uh, I mean Bastian (Will Sanderson) set out to rescue them.

Eventually Farmer teams up with the leader of a band of Cirque du Soleil forest nymphs named Elora (Kristanna Loken). Says she "Those who you fight, we will help you fight them." Solid gold. There's a couple of "epic" battles that aren't too terrible, although I spotted a couple of instances of reused footage. Like much of the film, they have a Direct-to-Video quality about them.

Gallian has the unexplained ability to inhabit the body of his Krug generals, which is shown in a manner similar to when Frodo wears the ring. He also engages Merrick in a telekinetic sword fight where they just stand there as swords fly around (thrilling!). Anyway Fallow tries to betray King Konreid but gets his just desserts, Farmer learns that his life is meant for greater things than farming, and we all walk away a little stupider.

I did notice that some of the fighting looked okay, if poorly shot and a bit too "kung fu" for a fantasy film. Then I noticed Ching Siu-Tung's name in the credits. That explains it. It also kind of explains the non-sequitor appearance of ninjas during a medieval fantasy battle. Not sure whose idea it was to have some Krugs sit in a catapult, set themselves on fire and then launch themselves into the enemy. Probably Boll's.

Like I said, the actors are there to collect a paycheck, but Lillard is particularly over-the-top as the duke. Hip hip huzzah, indeed. Boll's inability to transition a scene means you'll probably be confused at a few points as the film suddenly skips from one place to another, or the music fades out a few seconds before or after a scene is over. Also, someone should tell him that a fade-to-black generally indicates the passage of time, or at least the end of a scene.

This is very much an Uwe Boll film and that's what I like about him. He always manages to leave his stamp on his work and put in a few touches that leave you shaking your head in disbelief. At the end of the day, I'd rather watch that than a slick, soulless Brett Ratner film. Although you're probably better off watching neither.

1 comment:

LaughingBoy said...

I love these reviews. I don't have to bother seeing poor quality movies, when I know you'll do it for me and give me the 5 minute summary for the giggles!

Well done, Dave!