The Brave and the Boll

The notorious German director on sparring with his critics and making his latest (intentional) comedy

Uwe Boll isn't one to take criticism lying down. In 2006, the prolific German director, best known for his nearly annual output of poorly reviewed videogame adaptations, challenged his most vocal critics to meet him in a Vancouver boxing ring, and triumphed over every one. Afterward, Boll cast his vanquished opponents as trailer-park trash in his newest videogame adaptation Postal. Though it was initially reported that the boxing footage would end up in the movie, he now says it'll be on the DVD. (Full disclosure: When Film Threat ran an online poll asking which critic should fight Boll, I was the winner, but was deemed ineligible due to having given Boll's BloodRayne a relatively positive review.)

Postal, according to Boll, was designed to "wash the past away." His first comedy since his 1991 debut German Fried Movie, the film, in which a disenfranchised white-collar worker (A Christmas Story bully Zack Ward, all grown up) helps his cult-leader uncle (Dave Foley) try to steal a bunch of deadly penis-shaped plush toys from the Taliban, opens with a joke at the expense of 9/11 victims. It then progresses to even greater heights of derangement, peaking during a sequence — set at a German-themed amusement park with gas-chamber playgrounds — in which Boll appears as himself, confessing that his movies are made with Nazi gold and offering to pay actor Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer in gold teeth, only to be shot in the crotch by Postal creator Vince Desiderio, who is outraged that Boll made a mockery of his invention (a disturbingly simple game in which the player goes on a suburban shooting rampage).

German audiences weren't too happy about the Nazi stuff. "They were flipping out on me, and said, like, 'How can you present Germany like this?'" Boll says in thickly accented English that sounds not unlike California's governor's. "I said, 'Look, if you believe the German-subsidized movies and the movies that are getting the Oscars for best foreign language movie and this kind of stuff, you'd think all of what Germany is are good people, and liberal, and they almost tried to kill Hitler. But if you go right now to Eastern Germany on the streets, and you are, like, East Indian, and you go out at 11 p.m., there's a big chance that they'll beat you up.' It's a 20 percent vote in East Germany for the Nazi party right now. Twenty-five percent of the people are employerless, and they think that the foreign workers are the reason, so there is an explosive thing in Germany existing. I show the ugly side of Germany, and I'm not scared to show myself as an ugly German."

The intense self-deprecation may help to insulate Boll against the firestorm of criticism that could greet Postal upon its U.S. release. (The movie depicts George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden as being in cahoots and imagines virtually every American to be a gun-crazed lunatic.) He claims to be influenced by comedies like Airplane!, but his style has more in common with gonzo Japanese director Takashi Miike, or even Richard Kelly's insane manifesto Southland Tales. He calls Postal "a depressed look into the political landscape and what's going on around us," adding that "when I wrote it, America was maybe close to starting a war against Iran. So I thought, 'if they start the war against Iran, who knows, this will be maybe a third World War coming up, and then we [will] all go down the drain.' It was a scary situation, and in a way I think it was time to go away from all that patriotic stuff that happened after September 11th, to show how corrupt and absurd all political sides are. It's not only the Taliban that are crazy. There are also other groups that are crazy."

On top of the politics, Postal features mass murders played for laughs, and even some full-frontal male nudity courtesy of the always-game Foley. "Everybody was expecting an NC-17," Boll recalls. "Vivendi Universal [which is handling North American DVD distribution, but not theatrical] was shocked, because they tried to make me cut stuff out the whole time, and I said, 'I'll wait for the rating.' And now, boom! I get the R rating! With the full-frontal nudity, with the shooting of the children — all that stuff — I said, 'This is it! I keep it how it is, I don't cut it.' What we face now is we have problems to get screens. The big exhibitors don't like the political content of the movie."

Over the years, Boll has developed something of a contrarian cult fan base, including Movies.com critic Dave White, who wrote of Boll's recent In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, in which Burt Reynolds plays a medieval king who illegitimately fathered Jason Statham, that it "sucks, but it's also awesome. Those two things can coexist sometimes, and they do here in a very big way." While Boll will cop to the miscasting of Tara Reid as an academic in 2005's Alone in the Dark, he has mixed feelings about his newfound ironic status.

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