Eye For Film >> Movies >> Postal (2007) Film Review
Reviewed by: Anton Bitel
Two Middle Eastern pilots call up Osama bin Laden on a cellphone to quibble over the number of virgins to which they are entitled in Paradise, before the cockpit is stormed by angry passengers. Cut to the view of a windowcleaner on a New York skyscraper as a passenger plane dives towards him (in gobsmacking CGI). The explosive flames that fill the screen resolve into the title Postal, which as you have probably guessed is a long way from United 93, and is certainly not helmed with the directorial skills of a Paul Greengrass - but it is nonetheless, despite being played entirely for laughs, fuelled by some of the same post-millennial anxieties.
Postal is the latest work of Uwe Boll, a man best known - and most despised - for his cinematic adaptations of cherished video game titles. House Of The Dead (2003), Alone In The Dark (2005) and BloodRayne (2005) have seen legions of geeks temporarily putting down their joysticks to vilify him online in the most personally hateful terms, and critics dubbing him the 'world's worst living director'. They ought to know better. Boll's films are by no means the worst out there - but they do have the sort of high profile that few filmmakers so mediocre are able to attain, making Boll a very prominent target.
Boll's response to all this public obloquy was to come back fighting - literally. As part of the pre-production publicity for Postal, Boll issued an open challenge to his critics to meet him for ten rounds of boxing - and then, over two evenings in September of 2006, he easily defeated a shortlist of five of them in televised matches. Graciously, several of his victims in the ring subsequently agreed to appear as extras in Postal. The whole surreal spectacle may have done little to extricate the director from his schlocky reputation, but it certainly won both him and his film even more publicity.
Postal is based on the controversial 1997 videogame of the same name, in which a disgruntled state employee goes on a killing spree, taking out civilians with his postal van and an array of weapons. Boll has retained the game's basic premise and some of its more madcap details (such as using fluffy cats as gun silencers), while thoroughly updating it to the post-9/11 context and transforming it into a comic channel for his own anger against his many critics (as well as theirs against him).
An unnamed, rat-faced regular Dude (Zack Ward) is having a bad day. Cuckolded (repeatedly) by his obese trailer trash wife, jerked around in a job interview, and denied his welfare cheque by a rude bureaucrat, he agrees to join his Uncle Dave (Dave Foley) in a supposedly foolproof scheme to steal a shipment of in-demand 'Krotchy' dolls.
Things do not, however, go quite as planned. Framed for murder by corrupt policemen and pursued by a vigilante mob, the Dude finds himself caught between the all-too-faithful followers of Uncle Dave's sham Doomsday Cult, and a well-armed cell of the Taliban who have their own designs on the decidedly phallic dolls. And with Osama bin Laden (Larry Thomas) calling up his very good friend George W. Bush for assistance, the end of the world seems very nigh.
As a comedy, Postal is almost defiantly unfunny, misfiring on all cylinders and failing even to draw laughs from the most puerile of gross-out toilet humour (and, boy, is there a lot of that) - although in this respect it is not really so very different from, say, the entire Scary Movie franchise. What, however, makes Postal stand out is its political satire, however blunt-edged. Here we glimpse an anytown in America that is torn apart by different fanaticisms and fundamentalisms, ruled by a gibbering idiot, and consumed by a rage that responds to almost any situation with disproportionate amounts of violence. In the absence of any subtlety, all this does not so much cut as hack close to the bone, but at least it offers more than mere tits-and-ass jokes.
Boll allows himself a pivotal cameo, dressed in felt hat and lederhosen, boasting that his films are financed with "Nazi gold", declaring his priapic enthusiasm for young children, and wrestling with video game designer Vince Desiderio (who shouts "What the fuck did you do to my game Postal?"). This is not, of course, the real Boll, but rather the monstrous caricature of him that is diffused all over the internet - the unsavoury foreigner everyone loves to hate. It is a rôle that Boll now seems resigned, even happy, to play, and he does so with greater humour than many of his assailants ever display.
What is more, this new position as reviled jester apparently licenses Boll to come out with unprecedentedly offensive material. Your funny bone may not be tickled, but your jaw will certainly drop at the parade of broken taboos on offer here. The disabled are exploited, attitudes to race are manipulated, little children are murdered; there is scatology, scatophagy, bestiality, anti-semitism, and sacrilege of every colour; and most astonishing of all, there are gags at the expense of 9/11 victims. In his ham-fisted way, Boll has driven head-on into politically sensitive areas that few if any American directors would dare even approach. The creators of South Park might imagine Saddam Hussein and Satan as gay lovers - but only Boll could depict George Dubya and Osama bin Laden skipping hand-in-hand into a mushroom-clouded sunset. It is almost like Dr Strangelove updated to the War on Terror - except that Boll is no Stanley Kubrick.
It is refreshing to see so many sacred cows being so gleefully violated - indeed, Boll positions himself as a brazen advocate of free speech at a time when self-censorship and political correctness rule the roost in American discourse. Boll should be defended, even admired, for his willingness to swim against the political tide - but that alone, unfortunately, is not enough to make Postal worth watching. Deliriously tasteless it may be, but it is also, to borrow a phrase from one of its minor characters, "the place where laughter died."
Still, if you like your comedy as broad as a fat woman's undulating behind (a sight to which the viewer is repeatedly treated), you could do worse than going Postal – especially if you do so in a large, drunken crowd.Reviewed on: 16 Sep 2007