May 14, 2008

Statham two-fer: Revolver + In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale


Reviewer: Jeffrey M. Anderson

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2008)
Rating (out of 5): ***

Revolver (2007)
Rating (out of 5): **½

As unlikely a pair as cinema has ever thrown together, Jason Statham and Ray Liotta appear in two (bad) movies, both recently released to DVD. Revolver, Guy Ritchie's follow-up to his 2002 Madonna fiasco Swept Away, took two years to make it to the U.S., and promptly disappeared. It starts out like Ritchie's earlier crime pictures, and again stars Ritchie vet Statham. He plays Jake, who is released from jail after seven years and plots his revenge against casino owner Macha (Ray Liotta). When Macha tries to kill Jake, a couple of loan sharks (Vincent Pastore and André Benjamin) offer to protect him in exchange for all his money. Then they treat him like a lowly employee. I couldn't figure out why Jake would take this offer, since he seemed perfectly able to take care of himself. Then things get weird with a lot of talk about egos and rules and a number of chess games. Psychologists appear during the end credits to help explain what Ritchie was trying to get at. It's not worth the bother. Luc Besson is credited with adapting the story, but adapted from where is anyone's guess.


Only Uwe Boll himself might dispute the fact that Uwe Boll makes bad films. But there's still something about Boll that's uniquely interesting. (He even has his own devoted cult following.) It comes down to one thing: Boll's films have personality. No matter how bad they get, they still feel as if human beings, rather than computers, made them. Given a choice between Boll's In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (what a title!) and another swordfighting epic, say, Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven (2005), I'd take Boll's new film. Scott's film was ponderously dull, but In the Name of the King provided a weird kind of perverse pleasure; it had me wondering how in the world this film got made and where Boll's bizarre filmmaking choices came from.

Statham stars as a farmer -- called "Farmer" -- whose wife (Claire Forlani) is kidnapped by an army of monsters ("The Krug"). Teamed with his brother-in-law (Will Sanderson) and an old friend (Ron Perlman), he hits the road to find her. It turns out that an evil magus Gallian (Liotta) is controlling the marauding army so that the king's spoiled, ungrateful nephew (Matthew Lilliard) can take the throne. But the king (Burt Reynolds!), his faithful magus (John Rhys-Davies) and the magus' daughter (Leelee Sobieski) have other plans. Kristanna Loken co-stars as Elora, the queen of the tree people, who aid Farmer in his battles.

Blessed with action choreography from the great Ching Siu Tung (aka, Tony Ching, Swordsman II, House of Flying Daggers), the action in this film is much cleaner than in other Boll films, but Boll's strange editing techniques inspire a great amount of head-scratching. He jarringly cuts from one location to another in the middle of everything. Worse, when Gallian is manipulating his evil army, he appears in a room full of swirling fog; and Boll awkwardly cuts this footage into the middle of the outdoor battle sequences! Despite the jaw-dropping cast, the energy of the performances tends to flag, so Boll relies heavily on bad music to pump things up. Only Lillard and Liotta manage some (laughable) scenery chewing. Still, I wouldn't change a thing. It's been a while since I've seen Hollywood filmmaking this unsafe and unhinged. Fox's DVD release comes with a chunk of interesting behind-the-scenes footage, deleted/extended scenes and trailers.

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Posted by cphillips at May 14, 2008 3:17 PM
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