Dir. Uwe Boll, Germany/Canada/USA,
2007, 122 mins
Cast: Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Burt Reynolds, Leelee Sobieski
Review by Richard Hawes
Not many filmmakers would have the courage
to make a $60m blockbuster with no guarantee of distribution.
But then there aren’t many with the confidence and charisma
of maligned German director Uwe Boll.
After a string of videogame adaptations (House of the Dead,
Alone on the Dark, Bloodrayne) even less well received than
those of Paul W.S. Anderson, Boll became infamous in the film
world. But his poor track record with audiences has done little
to deter investors. His independently made films consistently
bring profits regardless of the scorn heaped upon them.
Boll is a rogue, working outside the system and with modest
success. His films are characterised by derivative plotting
and action, mediocre dialogue, eclectic casting and are instantly
recognisable. This latest release is undoubtedly his biggest
production yet. An entertaining disaster, which recalls the
days of Cannon Films.
Loosely based on an obscure videogame called Dungeon Siege
and influenced by everything from the Lord of the Rings to
Braveheart and Gladiator, In the Name of the King more closely
resembles the likes of Dungeons & Dragons 2 and The Musketeer.
Particularly the latter, in which Hong Kong choreography was
blended with the familiar swashbuckling mix.
Another intriguing production for Tong Ching Siu-Tung, after
the Bollywood hit Krrish and Steven Seagal’s Belly of
the Beast, not to mention Jet Li’s Hero, the addition
of showy martial arts seems somehow apt.
Securing a cinema release in the US after over a year in limbo,
during which the prolific Boll made a further three films (Seed,
Postal and Bloodrayne 2: Deliverance), In the Name of
the King surprised no-one by failing to break into the box
office top ten. It took a mere $2.8 million on opening weekend.
It’s no surprise that it’s going straight to DVD
This is car crash cinema at its most engaging. On the one hand
we have star Jason Statham, well suited to the fantasy genre
as the heroic Farmer, and the grand set-pieces of Ching Siu-Ting.
On the other we have a miscast Burt Reynolds, putting on period
costume for the first and possibly last time in his career,
and some dreadful looking sets.
This is the kind of film that’s in constant conflict
with itself, as the familiar story unfolds, Statham’s
Revolver co-star Ray Liotta unleashes his wild eyes as the
obligatory evil sorcerer and Statham’s Farmer embarks
on a quest of vengeance, the viewer is constantly aware of
the uneven distribution of the budget.
But criticism aside this is a great deal of fun. Sweeping cinematography,
impressive Canadian locations and hordes of well-dressed extras,
alongside John Rhys Davies, mean that the Peter Jackson vibe
is strong. It’s not hard to see where the money went,
particularly when you look at the cast.
Statham’s hard man credibility is at the heart of the
film, providing Boll with his first major star lead, but the
support from Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and Bloodrayne (Kristanna
Loken) amongst others is just as important in an ensemble film
Also featuring Claire Forlani and Leelee Sobieski, whose delicate
beauty and dramatic skills are a great asset to the film, and
a dreadfully camp Matthew Lillard, In the Name of the King
is action-packed fun for all the right and wrong reasons. An
example of haphazard, kitchen-sink filmmaking with never a
dull moment. Perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.