Ever since I watched Uwe Boll's Postal I've been keeping an eye on his work. Mind you, from afar, but still close enough to spot any interesting works. It sure paid off as Uwe is back, presenting a film with the power to silence even the harshest of naysayers. You might not appreciate Rampage, but it's difficult to miss the talent he puts on display here.
Don't call me a fan of his work though. The man obviously has the talent to make a good/fun film, but in between those gems there's a large pool of considerable crap. Some of it intentional no doubt, but crap nonetheless. There's a strange gap in quality that exists in Boll's work, reminding me a little of Miike's oeuvre. Sadly, the overall balance in Boll's body of work in a little off, making most of his films a serious gamble.
Rampage is a film that settles itself between the gritty portrayal of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (not the Robert Downey Jr. film), the nihilism of Nakajima's This World Of Ours and the stylistic realism of Van Sant's Elephant, zooming in on a young guy mad at the world in general. Boll's portrayal is far from subtle or nuanced, but because of that it has to potential to appeal to a crowd with a soft spot for rebellion. It's a film that feels as if it was directed by its main character, which is always a big plus in my book.
The story is centered around Bill, a 23-year old boy who doesn't have a bad life per se, he just has very little to look forward to. Comfortably dulled down by his somewhat unruly parents he wanders through life without much sense of direction. That is, until one day he feels the need to break his boring life with a gun slinging rampage. Using the internet for supplies, he sets out to make the world take notice.
Rampage has a gritty look, reinforced by the shaky hand-held camera work. It works well for most of the film, though from time to time Boll seems to be shaking his camera around a little too much just for the sake of fake-realism. These moments are rare but do detract a little from what's happening on screen. Apart from that it might not be a particularly beautiful film but the visuals are extremely functional and work remarkably well.
The soundtrack is a another real asset to the film. Dark and uncomfortable, atmospheric and grim. Boll's choice of music is spot on as it really makes the atmosphere more tangible, only improved by further tweaking of background noises. The mix of atmospheric sound manipulations and a solid soundtrack really reinforce the gritty, uneasy vibe coming from Rampage.
Performances of the actors are not as solid though, with the welcome exception of the main character. Brendan Fletcher does an awesome job with Bill, combining his smarts and likeable sides with a mean and dark undercurrent. He's actually quite scary and believable even though the film isn't always dead serious. Other actors are less talented, especially Bill's parents never manage to convince. It would've been nicer to get some better actors in those secondary roles, though it never really hurts the film as a whole.
People expecting an action film might be a bit disappointed. There's plenty of shooting and killing going on, but it's never presented as cool or exciting. Boll's vision is mean and bitter, always cold and heartless. People die without a second thought or a dash of compassion, such are the motives of the main character. It means no cheering for the good guys in this film.
Those expecting a true character piece will be equally disappointed. There's much rampaging in the film and apart from the start and finish there's very little character development. There are even a few absurd scenes tucked away in there, granting the film a dark comedic rim, though Uwe makes sure these scenes never intrude on the general bitter atmosphere.
The middle part is a little repetitive, but things pick up again when the climax is nearing. There's a big turning point where the film could've gone both ways, luckily Boll is man enough to pick the only right ending for his story leaving his audience a little dazed and overwhelmed when the end credits start rolling across the screen. If it had gone the other way, I probably wouldn't be writing this review right now.
Rampage is a pretty relentless film, but considering its concept and themes the execution is pretty spot on. No politically correct endings, no censorship, no concessions. It's a very simple and straight-forward film, yet very pure and honest at the same time. But above all, Rampage is quite simply a solid film which hits all the right spots. Kudos to Mr Boll. I'm still not convinced I should check out everything he makes, but I'll be sure to keep an eye out for further gems.
I know some of you still distrust Uwe Boll, so check out the trailer.