Posted: 06/02/2008

 

Postal

(2008)

by Jason Coffman




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I never thought I would say (or type) this, but I feel bad for Uwe Boll. The man has made his name directing universally reviled adaptations of video games. I’ll admit that until Postal, the only one of Boll’s films I’d seen was House of the Dead. It was bad enough that I figured I didn’t really need to see any of his other films, given their reception from critics, audiences and fans of the games on which those films were based. His interviews and antics in the media also turned me off to the man’s public persona, to the point that his films did not interest me in any way at all. Aside, of course, from morbid curiosity.

So it was with mild amusement and vague interest that I met news that Boll was making an “adaptation” of Postal, a game that was controversial over 10 years ago but has mostly faded into obscurity (despite a brief resurgence in public annoyance after the sequel was released in 2003). Boll boasted during production of the film that he was probably going to be arrested for it due to controversial and tasteless comedy, but most of his gloating just sounded like more desperate attention-grabbing. He somehow managed to get the film an opening slot on the same weekend as the surefire blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and gleefully proclaimed that he was confident Postal could go toe-to-toe with it and come out victorious.

Then something happened—Boll’s 1500-screen opening weekend fell through, leaving Postal to open on a mere four screens across North America. Distributors, whether antsy about the film’s content or (more likely) worried the film wouldn’t draw the kind of box office that any other movie in wide release might bring in, dropped the film entirely. Just days before the May 23rd premiere, another 10 theaters were listed on the film’s official website as showing Postal, as well as a bitter tirade from Boll himself claiming (verbatim): “you are all not getting it that i’m the guy who made it against the big hollywood system and you are all only busy to destroy me and finish me up…”

And with that, I immediately wanted to see this movie as soon as possible.

Postal, surprisingly enough, is highly enjoyable and nearly as offensive as Boll wanted it to be. The film opens with an already-infamous scene in which two hijackers opt to fly to the Bahamas instead of into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, because they can’t be absolutely guaranteed 99 virgins in the afterlife due to the sheer number of suicide bombings in the recent past. Unfortunately, they’re thwarted by passengers and steered directly into the first tower, at which point the film moves on to present day. Our hero, the unemployed Postal Dude (Zack Ward, who is never given a proper name) lives in the trailer park of a town called Paradise with his unfaithful, monstrously obese wife. His Uncle Dave (Dave Foley) runs a hippie cult commune on the outskirts of town as a way to scam people out of money (and into his bed) and live easy.

Uncle Dave cooks up a plan to pay his $1 million in back taxes by stealing a shipment of (inexplicably) massively popular Krotchy dolls, plush figures in the shape of a cock and balls. Dave plans to sell the dolls on eBay for thousands of dollars each. Unfortunately, a terrorist cell (headquartered in the lavish backroom of a convenience store) has already put vials of bird flu in the dolls and is also out to grab the shipment as their follow-up to 9/11. Also, for some reason Verne Troyer plays himself and spends half his screen time in a suitcase with a purple light-up dildo.

Postal gets by entirely on its own cheerful distaste. Boll happily takes potshots at everyone, including himself (in a hilarious cameo appearance). The film breezes past plot points with no real interest in keeping a cohesive storyline, just in lining up as many inappropriate jokes (retarded terrorists, Nazi gold) and set pieces (including a shootout at an amusement park where dozens of children are shot) as possible. This turns out to work in the film’s favor: just as you’re done shaking your head or laughing at one disgusting turn of events, there’s a new one submitted for your disapproval. The film is too wacky to really have much to say, but it’s hard to deny that in its final shot Boll hits the level of surreal offensiveness at which he was aiming through the whole film.

Saying Postal is the best film Uwe Boll has ever made is not saying much at all, so it’s probably better to say that it’s the first film he’s made that seemed like something he genuinely wanted to do and less like another dreary, mercenary assignment to fill out his growing filmography of bad movies. It’s far from perfect, but it hits more than it misses, and the fact that everyone onscreen looks like they’re having a blast is infectious. The film’s theatrical run is probably long over, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Postal develop a cult following once it hits DVD. To summarize with another sentence I never thought I’d say (or type): Uwe Boll has made a film that’s actually worth watching.

Jason Coffman is a writer and film critic living in Chicago.



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