January 17, 2008
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (PG-13)
Half-hearted accents, wildly unbalanced acting, campy dialogue, needlessly complex mythology and a bombastic score combine to create a masterpiece of craptacular film-making in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, a film from director Uwe Boll.
For those who’ve never accidentally stumbled upon, say, BloodRayne, Uwe Boll is known for making both that delightful epic and Alone in the Dark — two of the worst-reviewed movies in recent history — along with several other movies, many of which are based on video games. But to see a Uwe Boll movie is not to see just any bad movie. He is a maestro. When I watched the Coen brothers’ recent movie No Country for Old Men, I knew I was watching essentially a perfect movie. Ditto with Atonement — though I didn’t enjoy it all that much, I can recognize that its construction is flawless. Likewise, Boll’s movies are perfectly flawed. He pushes a strange collection of actors (in BloodRayne that collection included Ben Kingsley, Michelle Rodriguez and Michael Madsen) through choppy dialogue that (at least in his recent “period” pictures) mixes slangy modern language and the vaguest nod to some kind of English (or something) accent with the occasional stab at “ye olde”-sounding speech. These characters, dressed in something like Renaissance fair costumes, wander around a landscape dotted with bad CGI and act out a story that usually involves magic, secret bloodlines and quests for power. Also sword fighting and occasionally wizards who have to open their eyes THIS WIDE to get their evil power cranked way up to 10.
Or, as it were, 11. In this movie , everything definitely goes to 11.
Farmer (Jason Statham), his wife Solana (Claire Forlani) and their son live the kind of perfect pastoral farm life that usually leads to someone being eaten or otherwise murdered horribly. When Solana and the boy go to the village one day, Farmer and his friend Norick (Ron Perlman) find themselves under attack by Krugs, an army of vaguely Lord of the Rings-ish foot soldiers of evil that look a bit like what would happen if you mixed the parts of a giant bulldog costume with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume. Norick and Farmer are able to beat back the Krugs and they head to the village, where, naturally, all is in disarray and the townsfolk (dressed a bit like extras from Little House on the Prairie but with more velvet) are either fighting, being killed by or being kidnapped by the Krugs. Farmer finds his son, but it is too late, the boy is dead. He can’t find Solana and assumes she’s dead also.
It’s vengeance time.
Meanwhile, over in one of the movie’s many other subplots, Duke Fallow (Matthew Lillard, who plays the role the way his character from Scream would play Laertes in a junior high production of Hamlet if he’d forgotten his Ritalin) is trying to wrest control of the kingdom from his uncle, King Konreid (Burt freakin’ Reynolds). The attack of the Krugs on the village near Farmer’s farm was the beginning of this palace coup and was staged with the help of Gallian (Ray Liotta), a wizard-type guy who has grown more powerful by stealing power from Muriella (Leelee Sobieski), the daughter of the king’s magical adviser guy, Merick (John Rhys-Davies).
There are also wood nymph warrior women who swing down from the trees on some impressive-looking prop vines (including one played by Kristanna Loken, Rayne of BloodRayne fame) and a trek over a snowy mountain and some adventure high jinks involving a missing bridge over a deep ravine and a truly priceless scene where one captured village person, sitting chained in a dark cavern in the Krugs’ frightening lair, turns to the blonde captured village girl next to him and says something like “so, where are you from?”
Still not convinced? What if I tell you that Lillard, who in any other movie would win the “Craziest Eyes” award, is completely eclipsed here by the crazy-eyes of Ray Liotta, who also has this magnificent “ha ha ha, puny Farmer” laugh and spends most of the movie in this cheap CGI tornado from which he controls the battle of the dog men and their upside-down-trashcan-helmeted overlords? Or that Liotta leaps down from a balcony, one leg extended, one leg bent in the universal “I can levitate” pose? Or that, for a time of such primitive tools, they certainly have the push-up bra technology down? Or that Burt Reynolds is, did I not mention, the king? But still seems like he didn’t bother to read the whole script or even get someone to explain the plot to him, before suiting up and delivering some fantastically indifferent acting?
Yes, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is bad. It is awesomely bad, as awesomely bad as its windy and goofy title would imply. And while the entirety of this review will probably land me on some Uwe Boll hate list, I say with an absolute lack of sarcasm that I truly hope he keeps making movies. His films are joyously campy, traffic-cone-orange movie-nacho cheese. Huzzah! I say and verily, though this movie be an F I enthusiastically recommend you (and a goodly portion of your friends, perhaps flushed with mead and ale) journey thusly to the theater to see it.
Rated PG-13 for intense battle sequence. Directed by Uwe Boll and written by Doug Taylor, Jason Rappaport and Dan Stroncak, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale is two hours and four minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Freestyle Releasing.