Postal (UK - DVD R2)
Reviewer Leigh Riding checks out Uwe Boll's first (intentional) comedy feature...
(Very) loosely based on the PC video game franchise of the same name, Postal tells the story of the Postal Dude (Zach Ward), a loser eking out an unfulfilling and unpleasant life in the town of Paradise. On one particularly trying day, the Postal Dude concedes defeat and hooks up with his Uncle Dave (Dave Foley), a local cult leader, and plans a scheme to steal thousands of the currently trendy Krotchy toys to sell on the black market. Sadly, the plan manages to get the pair tangled up with the Taliban, hidden away in the local mini-mart. Osama Bin Laden (Larry Thomas) also plans to steal the Krotchy toys for his own ends, and with help from Bin Laden's golf buddy George W. Bush, end up battling Uncle Dave's cult. How will the lowly Postal Dude get out of this one alive?
After several attempts to bring video games to the silver screen, Uwe Boll returns with Postal. Each time a new release stumbles into cinemas, they are instantly treated with utter derision from both cinema audiences and the internet gaming community, who blog until their fingers bleed about how the much loathed director has destroyed their favourite games. Aside from the technical aspects of Boll's films, the main complaint is that the director regularly veers away from the original plots and themes (For instance, the Bloodrayne game involves a vampire huntress in WW2 Germany, in Boll's version the story is set in medieval Romania).
Even by Boll's standards, fans of the Postal game will be outraged by this film, as it bears almost no resemblance to the source material. In fact, there is a scene where the creator of the game appears and attempts to kill Boll for screwing up his game. Instead, the director uses the anarchic source material as a frame to hang his version of social satire on.
Although there are elements of action that are evident in all of Boll's work (and are arguably his strongest chops), the film is primarily a comedy. Sitting somewhere between Team America and Troma style filmmaking, Boll goes to places that even Trey Parker and Matt Stone feared to tread. There are some scenes that push the boundaries of taste and acceptability, most notably the now infamous 'twin towers' pre-credits sequence. Although understandably taboo, particularly for American viewers, there is no denying that the opening scene is well written, surprisingly sharp and above all, funny.
I was more surprised than most that the satirical elements of Boll's script were mostly on the money. There are some genuinely funny sequences in the film that appealed to my admittedly morbid humour, such as the welfare office massacre, which sees the newly fired Postal Dude crawling through the dead bodies amid the gunfire, and searching the corpses for a better line ticket. Boll himself appears, and pokes fun at himself accordingly. There is also more broad humour evident that still amuses, such as Postal Dude using a wheelchair-bound disabled man as a makeshift ladder, and a sequence involving a cat being used as a silencer for a gun. However, there are as many jokes that miss disastrously.
There is far too much time wasted on very poor toilet humour that almost always fails miserably, with actors skidding around on dog leavings, and more fart jokes than one film can handle. Boll seems to be unable to contain his frustration of his American viewers, and it results in quite a lot of jibes at his critics that show him as self indulgent, and as a result those jabs also miss. Although the cheap laughs are a hard sell, the characters commit gamely. Zack Ward is a solid lead, and puts in far more effort into the main role than previous, higher profile Boll stars. Dave Foley, from the much-loved Kids in the Hall ensemble, also goes the extra mile for the film; let's just say I've seen more of him than was necessary. Surprisingly respectable actors such as J.K Simmons and Erick Avari also appear and make the effort. Of course there are also some horrendous performances to cancel things out, such as Chris Coppola, who is so far over the top it's a wonder he doesn't suffer from vertigo as a result.
After the poor box office showings of Boll's previous outings, the budget appears to have been slashed for Postal. Missing the sheen of Alone in the Dark and In the Name of the King, this film feels rather cheap and flat. At times resembling a DTV film, even the action sequences seem small. Although well shot and edited, the shootouts are set in alleyways and trailer parks, and seem very low key. For instance, as incoherent as Alone in the Dark is, there are some very slick visuals and action that catch the eye. That flair is missing from Postal, and the film seems like less enticing viewing.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out why US studios were reluctant to distribute Postal theatrically. It generally pokes fun at American culture, and contains scenes that may always be taboo in a comedy. However, for those with a less inhibited sense of humour, the film may score a few comedic home runs. Although a little too scattershot to be a truly recommended comedy, people with a low expectation looking for a film in the same ballpark as the (still scathing) political satire of Team America: World Police may find something of interest, although they won't be watching the greatest film ever made by a long stretch.
Postal arrives with a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer, and the results are a mixed bag. Mostly clean, there is some evidence of grain and varying levels of sharpness, however that appears to be more down to the various deficiencies of the production than a problem with Metrodome's disc. Having said that, it's a perfectly acceptable transfer from what is basically a low budget film.
Metrodome offers a solitary Dolby Digital 5.1 track for Postal. Much like the video transfer, the audio track is perfectly serviceable, just unspectacular. Dialogue is well represented, although the occasional poor ADR and on-set bangs and scuffs are quite noticeable as a result. The action sequences kick things up a little more, with decent use of the surrounds for the gunfire. Unfortunately the sound FX are so poorly laid over the original audio, it doesn't really matter. Again, this is more down to sloppy post production than it is with the DVD.
Extra content for Postal is a little thin on the ground. Boll's Audio commentary is rather dry compared to most of his previous talk tracks, with quite a lot of talk on Boll's critics (the film was made around the time of the notorious 'critic boxing match' scenario). The director strangely skirts around the more controversial content in the film, which is a shame. What Boll does talk about is the number of actors who shied away from appearing in Postal, such as Jamie Kennedy and Rob Schneider, who allegedly found the film offensive and racist (he subsequently appeared in You Don't Mess With The Zohan). The obligatory theatrical trailer also makes an appearance. The only other extra is a Making of, which is more of a B-roll type of affair, and serves little purpose. Considering the region one version is a features packed affair including a copy of the Postal PC game, this edition is a letdown.
Despite the general ineptitude of the filmmaking in evidence and the hit and miss nature of some of the more off-colour humour, Postal emerges as one of the more competent Boll films. Although crippled a little more than most of his films by a reduced budget, it would appear that Boll is finally hitting some strange approximation of the word 'stride'. I would say that it is probably too uncomfortably close to home for our American cousins, but with the benefit of geographical distance the occasional laughs warrant at least a rent. Hardly recommended material, but watchable all the same.
Review by Leigh Riding
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 20th October 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Commentary by Uwe Boll, Behind the scenes, theatrical trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Uwe Boll
Cast: Zack Ward, Dave Foley, Verne Troyer, Ralf Moeller
Length: 96 minutes
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