Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Monday, May 20, 2019


Even though developers have always tried to cast as wide a net as possible, video games were primarily marketed to children for many years. And in any medium pubically defined as a kids' toy, some creators get a transgressive thrill out of being as outrageous and offensive as possible. The likes of “Mortal Kombat” and “Grand Theft Auto” paired their controversial content with innovative, entertaining game play, Games like “Postal” had less substance under their aggressively in-your-face ingredients. “Postal 2” was a video game designed to be as offensive as possible and was already largely forgotten by 2007. (For further proof of that, the 2011 release of “Postal III” was met with total indifference.) Not that this stopped Uwe Boll from directing a “Postal” movie. Oddly, this match made-in-Hell seemed to work for some people and the film won some of the best reviews of Boll's career.

Unlike most of his video game movies, you get the impression that Uwe Boll actually played “Postal 2.” His film keeps many of the elements from the video game's admittedly loose plot. The film follows an unnamed protagonist, eventually dubbed the Postal Dude by the media. In order to placate his morbidly obese and hateful wife, he seeks gainful employment in the hellish Arizona town of Paradise. This doesn't really work and the Dude is soon working along his Uncle Dave, a cult leader starting to fall on hard times. The two devise a plot to steal a shipment of highly profitable scrotum-shaped dolls. Little do they know, al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden are also in Paradise with their eyes on the same prize. Yes, a live cat is used as a silencer but, no, Gary Coleman does not appear. The late Verne Troyer filled his role.

The low expectations inherent in an Uwe Boll movie go a long way but “Postal” does include some genuinely funny gags. The opening scene, which re-imagines the events of 9/11 in the the most flippant way possible, is incredibly offensive. It's also an absurd joke contrasting the assumed graveness of Islamic terrorists with far pettier concerns. Other moments mine a similarly offensive but absurdly funny thread. Such as J.K. Simmons' cameo as a conspiracy theorists who has some thoughts about the people inside World Trade Center or the sight of a disenfranchised Osama bin Laden attending a seminar on how to motivate your employees. A sense of hostility towards corporations runs throughout much of the film. Such as the job the Dude applies for, which openly admits it screws over its employees and asks nonsensical questions during the interview. Or Uncle Dave rambling on about frequent flying miles.

However, these inspired moments only make up a small portion of “Postal's” run time. Decent jokes like the Postal Dude doing anything to shorten his wait at the unemployment office stand alongside Verne Troyer being raped by chimpanzees and a naked Dave Foley taking a shit in front of his employer. “Postal's” world is nihilistic in its ugliness. Everyone is horrible, all the dialogue is vulgar. A racist black cop murders a Chinese woman in broad daylight. The Postal Dude's obese wife is the source of much grotesque mockery. The film's determination to be as offensive as possible quickly grows exhausting. The film seemingly has a checklist of topics it has to touch upon. Gay marriage, Tom Cruise and Scientology, Nazis and Hitler, drugs, non-stop sexual references, Christian and Islamic extremism, mental and physical disabilities, and coffee shops are all rolled into the plot. It's hard to be shocked by kids being gunned down or babies being run over when everything in the movie is designed to be offensive.

Still, I think Uwe Boll had learned from the mistakes of his prior films. “Postal” is actually pretty well shot, at least when compared to the director's previous features. The action scenes are coherent, totally free of the whiplash inducing editing, shaky camera work, or questionable musical choices of Boll's other video game movies. “Postal” doesn't have the television-like flatness of Boll's other films, with more cinematic angles and even a warm dash of color here and there. There's even a decent sequence of a CGI rocket flying through a crowd. Boll has a fourth wall shattering cameo as himself, admitting his movies are funded by Nazi gold and quibbing that he hates video games before dying from a shot to the dick. Earlier, the creator of “Postal” appears to beat Uwe up for ruining his games. So at least the guy has a sense of humor about himself.

Some cast members seem more into the material than others. Dave Foley, as Uncle Dave, gives it his all, showing everyone his cock and probably improvising much of his dialogue. Even then, he seems somewhat embarrassed as the film drags on. Verne Troyer seems entirely embarrassed. Especially in light of his recent death and the details of his struggle with mental illness, the humiliation he suffers on-screen seem even sadder. Zack Ward, after appearing in “Resident Evil 2” but before appearing in “BloodRayne II” or “Alone in the Dark II,” stars as the Postal Dude. Ward is totally willing to play along with the shock value laden script, somehow maintaining a degree of dignity during all of this. Unsurprisingly, all the women in the film are exploited and treated poorly.

“Postal” would be largely overshadowed by a publicity stunt Boll pulled to promote the film, in which he boxed critics that gave his movies bad reviews. This event certainly did little to dispel the image of Boll as an anti-intellectual egomaniac. (Boll is a semi-pro boxer but refused to fight anyone with actual melee training.) However, I can't help but admire Boll's carnival-like hucksterism. “Postal” isn't a good movie but it's also not without its moments. Boll would later direct “Rampage,” not a video game adaptation but a serious thriller covering similar ground to this film. That movie also won some positive notices, suggesting Boll is a better director when he's actively invested in his scripts.  [5/10]

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