Fantasia Report: Todd Eats Crow, Declares Uwe Boll's Postal A Damn Good Movie. Really.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, stop the presses! This is why, as tempting as it may be, you do not give up on a film maker. Uwe Boll has made a good movie. This is not a joke. This is not a test of the emergency broadcast system. This is honest to god truth. Postal is not merely competent. It's not just okay. It is brash, bold, smart when called for and stupid when required and -- most importantly -- it is frequently and intentionally laugh out loud funny.
Rather than continuing to fight his public and online image Boll has decided to embrace it, intentionally elevating the level of absurdity and shlock here to never before seen levels, all in the name of creating one of the most coarse, vulgar and offensive comedies ever put to celluloid. This is a movie that sees Boll appear on screen gleefully claiming to finance his films with Nazi gold. This is a film that features a frontal nude shot of former Kid in the Hall Dave Foley in its opening minutes. This is a film that features the World Trade Center hijackers attempting to change course because there's a shortage of virgins in the afterlife. And while it certainly will offend it will do so, perhaps surprisingly, because beneath the madness it features some surprisingly pointed and accurate moments of social satire.
Postal is a film difficult to summarize without simply spoiling the jokes but here is a rough outline: our 'hero' is a twenty something trailer park dweller, laid off from a factory job and trying to find work while living off welfare with his grotesquely obese, chronically – and graphically -- unfaithful wife. Just outside of town lives his uncle Dave – that'd be Dave Foley -- the con man leader of a fake religious cult to whom he is known as Uncle Dave and to whom they pay out both large amounts of cash and sexual favors. Unknown to his nubile flock, however, Uncle Dave hasn't been paying his taxes and the compound is in danger of being shut down. Following quite possibly the most demeaning job interview on the history of the planet and a trip to the welfare office gone horribly and hysterically wrong our hero agrees to help Uncle Dave on a scam to get his personal slice of heaven back in the black. More on that in a moment.
Running simultaneous to this is the second key plotline, this one revolving around Osama Bin Laden and his core al Quaeda members, living in the back room of a local variety store while they plan their next move. Though Osama is simply going through the motions of being an international terror leader to stave off boredom his key lieutenant and chief boot licker has come up with a plan even more devastating than the 9-11 attacks, the key of which is – surprise, surprise – also key to Uncle Dave's plan.
What both sides want is a shipment of rare, coveted, Krotchy dolls, Krothy being a little penis shaped cartoon character voiced by "International Superstar" Vern Troyer. Uncle Dave wants to sell them on Ebay. Osama wants to lace them with biological agents and before doing the same thing. But before either can proceed the dolls need to be 'liberated' from a German themed amusement park run by Uwe Boll, playing himself. Chaos – and rampant gun play – ensues.
Playing like a demented blend of South Park, the Farrelly Brothers and Troma – though with better production values and casting than any of those can typically boast – Postal positively blazes through a first act, leaping from moment to moment and sketch to sketch, gleefully poking fun at religious extremism, political manipulation, race politics, and conspiracy theory. The pace sags some in the middle act as it makes the transition from rapid fire sketch comedy into a more coherent narrative but the third act is, once again, full force and all guns a-blazing. As is always the case with this sort of shock-comedy mileage will vary from viewer to viewer and gag to gag – some will undoubtedly find it purely offensive with no redeeming qualities – but the hit to miss ratio is surprisingly strong and the writing truly audacious in sections. The film is an equal opportunity offender, with a little something thrown in to get everybody from every segment of society.
The film is carried primarily on three fronts. First is the writing. Much like South Park, Postal is far smarter than it appears on the surface. Yes, there is a healthy portion of pure toilet humor but Boll proves surprisingly adept at taking positions held by both extreme right and left American politics, stretching them way beyond their logical conclusions and turning them back in on themselves. The opening conversation between hijackers, the welfare office shoot out, and the job interview – example all lifted just from the opening act -- all carry a surprising level of subtext to them and, if nothing else, you have to admire the man for having the stones to make a film sure to infuriate Republicans and Islamic extremists alike.
The second major strength lies with the cast. Even Boll's most vocal detractors have had to admire his ability to cast big names in his film and while Postal may not include a true a-list star it does feature a seemingly endless string of serious character actors all of whom are perfectly used and all of whom are obviously loving every minute of what they're doing. Watch for J.K Simmons – that'd be J. Jonah Jameson to you Spider-Man fans – in a bit part as an anti-government conspiracy theorist, in particular. The first half of the film, as characters are introduced, provides a steady stream of 'Hey, I know that guy …' moments.
The third strength lies with Boll and his technical crew. The man has developed some decent technical chops and, having spent so much time on horror and action films, he's able to stage scenes that other films of this type could never properly attempt. The cinematography is strong, the editing is sharp and while I think the middle act could stand with a bit of a trim there's hardly an ounce of fat on the film otherwise.
So. There you have it. The subject matter and approach guarantees that Postal will not be for everyone. It pokes fun at some otherwise untouchable subjects and there is a large segment of the populace that simply doesn't care for vulgar comedy. And that's fair enough. But for a film of this type Postal is an unqualified success, a film that knows what it wants to be and hits all of its marks. A good film? Hell, I can't remember the last film that made me laugh this hard.
** UPDATE **
A certain Mr. Ward -- no idea if it's really him, honestly -- has been trying to embed the opening scene of the film in the comments section, unsuccessfully because our publishing software doesn't allow it. So I'll link to it here. It's a VERY low grade cam job of the scene that looks like ass but the audio comes through loud and clear, which is what you need for this particular bit. It's spoilerific but it's literally the first scene of the film and is also the bit that let me know I was about to have to rethink everything I though I knew about Boll ...