Thursday, July 10, 2008

Video Game Movie Review: Hitman

The first thing to note about Hitman is that it is not directed, produced or written by Uwe Boll. So, it’s not a low budget poorly executed pile of crap. That doesn’t mean it’s good, and Hitman is far from good. In fact, I might even go as far to say it’s bad. It’s really hard to say what the movie is about because it has a very small amount of plot. Now, I would say that it is difficult to make a good film about a hitman, but the Bourne movies were good, so one might expect Hitman to be decent. One would be wrong though.

Hitman begins with shots of "The Organization" raising kids with barcodes on their heads and presumably training them to be killers. Agent 47, the protagonist, is introduced. He is a snappy dresser and a mass murder. In the beginning of the movie, they actually tried to give him a little bit of character. Some woman was trying to hit on him in a bar, and she asked him his name. He got awkward and scared and ran away. They didn’t really follow up with any sort of characterization until later in the movie where he again was scared of a woman. I thought that was an interesting idea – an action hero who is intimidated by women because all he knows is killing. Unfortunately, that was about the only thing that was interesting in the film.

Besides these small glimpses into character, everything about the movie was completely cliché. Agent 47 is an amoral hitman who apparently isn’t burdened with a conscience or any sort of personality. He only does anything slightly resembling the right thing because he was framed. There was another really clichéd character, the prostitute with a heart of gold. Well, at least I assumed she had a heart of gold, but she didn’t really do anything good. There might have been something about how she was driven into prostitution because of something bad that made her a sympathetic character. I don’t remember what it was though.

Obviously they weren’t trying to make Schindler’s List, so you are probably waiting for me to stop complaining about the terrible plot and start commenting on the action. Well, the action wasn’t bad, but nothing new or interesting. I think it’s adequate, but there’s really nothing about it worth recommending. They had obligatory fight scenes and shooting, but it was very average. The fact that there was nothing interesting or appealing about the characters or the story really makes the action less appealing. Certainly there are plenty of movies that make up for terrible plots with completely over the top fight sequences (like Die Hard with a Vengeance), but this is not one of those movies.

Production Values: 4.0 – Certainly not an Uwe Boll shoestring budget, but it’s not a summer blockbuster.

Story: 6.5 – It was quite bad, but not in the same league as Uwe Boll. Honestly, it’s not much worse that typical Hollywood action schlock.

Action: 4.0 – There was some, but it wasn’t really noteworthy.

Faithfulness to the video game source: 5.0 – I haven’t played the games, but they didn’t seem to have much of a plot either. They have some of the same elements, but the video games seemed to actually have more of a plot!

Laughs: 5.0 – I did find some of it funny, but I had to really work to find it funny.

Total Turds: 5.0 - I only saw the movie a month ago, and I’m really scratching my head to remember anything about it. There was nothing really memorable about it, but it wasn’t quite as terrible as most video game adaptations. Stay clear unless the alternative is watching an Uwe Boll film.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Video Game Move Review: In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

I had the fortune to spend some time over Memorial Day weekend with my sister. Unlike me, my sister doesn’t really keep up with movies, so when we go to the video store to rent something, she judges it solely based on the cover. This lack of research came in handy recently because she grabbed "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale", and suggested we rented it. My jaw dropped open because I saw this as an opportunity to see this game based movie with one of my favorite people without bribing her or having to apologize profusely afterwards. I thought perhaps this was some kind of trick, so I asked, "Are you sure?" It was no trick! She responded, "Yes. Why?" "Oh no!" I thought. I may have blown my chance! I had to back track over my colossal fumble, "Umm... Errr.. No reason!" She knew something was up, so she said, "Well, maybe we’ll keep looking." Unfortunately for her, we found nothing else, so we picked it up!

On the way home, she asked me what the deal was with "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale". I explained to her the story of Uwe Boll and how terrible his previous films were, but I mentioned (and unfortunately not believably) that perhaps she would enjoy this film. However what I said was more than enough to sap out all of her interest in seeing this film. So, we had to go back and rent "The Number 23", which I warned her got really bad reviews. She wanted to see it anyway, perhaps because of its classy cover. We watched 23 first and the reviews prove correct – it was no good.

Now, although "In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege" got overwhelmingly negative scores, I think the Montreal Film Journal hit the nail on the head:
Fuck "The Lord Of The Rings", this is how it's done.

Unfortunately for Uwe Boll, the next line is "Naw, I'm just fucking with you, this movie is a major piece of crap." It continues with a very insightful review that fairly paints a picture of how crappy the film is. You should definitely read that review. In fact, it almost saves me the trouble of writing a review myself, but it’s a bit too short and doesn’t describe the juicy details like I’m sure my audience is interested in, which at this point, I believe is just my dad (Hi dad!). The Big G’s website isn’t quite as popular after I got bored with pissing off Nintendo’s fanboys. I still am let down with the Wii, so perhaps I should go back to that. Although I do enjoy pissing off Uwe Boll, and hopefully, he will someday challenge me to a boxing match. Maybe I should start training, so I don’t end up like Lowtax.

So, now that you know the movie is terrible, let me take a step back and tell you why. The story revolves around a farmer named... Well, Farmer. Now, I thought this was the stupidest name they could have come up with. Perhaps in response to this criticism, they decided to justify it by explaining that Farmer the farmer feels that people should be known by what they do. With a terrible explanation like that, I think they were better off not explaining it. If everyone adopted his philosophy, it would get confusing to have half the villagers known as Farmer as well as it would make it difficult to have multiple jobs or to switch them. Obviously the screenwriters didn’t really think that through very well. Actually, I don’t think they thought anything through well, which was part of the problem.

So, this farmer named Farmer has a wife who he loves but won’t say it and a son who actually has a name, so I guess he wasn’t really forcing his stupid naming philosophy on his child. Ray Liotta plays the evil wizard Gallian, and he’s sleeping with Muriella, played by Leelee Sobieski. This was particularly disturbing because Ray Liotta looks like he’s 60 and Leelee looks like she’s 16, so it’s like she’s having relations with her grandpa. Apparently he was sleeping with her to steal her magical powers. Or because she was 16 and the daughter of his arch-nemesis magus Merick, a loyal servant of King Konreid, played by an extremely disinterested Burt Reynolds. Probably a little of column A and a little of column B. Completing out the all star cast, Ron Perlman played Norick, a sort of father figure for Farmer, and Matthew Lillard, the world’s most talented actor plays Duke Fallow, the king’s nephew who is scheming to become king while boozing and womanizing and doing an amazing job acting.

One might wonder how Uwe Boll gets all these big name actors to do his films. For Pete’s sake, he got academy award winning Sir Ben Kingsley to be in Bloodrayne. When asked this question, Ben Kingsley had this to say in his defense: "I don't know whether to be upset or flattered by that question," read his response. "To be honest, I have always wanted to play a vampire, with the teeth and the long black cape. Let's say that my motives were somewhat immature for doing it."

I have also heard that Uwe Boll’s production schedules are so short that he is able to give actors a decent sum of money for an extremely small amount of work. This is consistent with the special features of Bloodrayne 2, which said that they were actually writing the screenplay on set because they had a ridiculous short schedule. This is also consistent with Anthony Bourdain’s experience playing a small part in Far Cry, where Uwe gives him the expert direction "Something like whatever". Also, after his first take, Uwe offers the criticism, "You came very fast back to life", but rather than reshooting, Uwe decides to just edit out Anthony’s reanimation creating a rather sloppy action scene.

Hell, if you watch Bloodrayne, it looks as though Billy Zane’s scenes were shot after the film was already finished and written in just to have another actor in the movie. He interacts only one other character and doesn’t actually do anything. Any decent director would have left those scenes on the cutting room floor, but this is Uwe Boll we are talking about. He probably thought all the Billy Zane fans would see the movie for him. I didn’t realize Billy Zane had fans, but I think Uwe Boll sees movies as an equation. X stars + Y special effects shots = Z profit.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t realize that even a small amount of talent is required to pull off something that is at least palatable by the general movie going public. Hell, it doesn’t seem like their standards are very high given the incredible success of Indy 4 and how mediocre it was! So, it seems that Uwe just doesn’t care about the artistic aspects and that shines through in this film. One might have previously attributed his previous films poor quality to the shoestring budgets that he had to create them, but somehow for "In the Name of the King", he was able to raise 60 or 70 million. Unfortunately, it seems that he just is a sloppy filmmaker.

As the Montreal Film Journal points out, it’s difficult to say whose performance is the worst. Everyone’s performances are so stiff and terrible I feel like I’m watching the Polar Express with real actors this time. (Any movie that can make Tom Hanks creepy is doing something very very wrong) Jason Statham delivers his usual emotionless supposed bad ass style, but unfortunately it doesn’t work so hot when he’s supposed to be a loving father and a dutiful husband. Burt Reynolds looked distant and bored the entire film. I think I caught his eyes wandering in order to check a clock in a few of the scenes. Hell, I could go through every actor and talk about how horrible their performance was, but they really didn’t have much to work with. Their characters were all worthless and should have been cut. Muriella really doesn’t do anything the entire movie besides get boned by someone old enough to be her grandpa. But, they constantly follow her hoping that some facet about her would interest you enough in the character to care about her. They failed. There were tons of other characters and plot points that I imagine you were supposed to care about, but everything was so amateur that it completely missed the mark.

Matthew Lillard is one of my least favorite actors, so I was rather pleased that he hasn’t been in any movies since Wing Commander. (I should review that soon. I considered taking my own life when watching Wing Commander.) Curiously enough, his performance was actually pretty decent in SLC Punk. I have trouble reconciling that with the fact that every other character he plays is extremely obnoxious, but perhaps he has just been typecast as the friend that is really annoying, but you have to hang out with him because you’ve known him for so long, and you’d feel a little bad if you stopped hanging out with him because he’d have no friends – or that’s what you tell yourself. You’re not so sure. Perhaps you’d be cool with him having no friends, but his mom is friends with your mom, so a lot of questions would be raised if you just stopped seeing him all together. He’s not that annoying. Well, all your friends think so, but you’ve known him for so long... Uh, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, Matthew Lillard was terrible in this movie. Here’s what the Montreal Film Journal has to say:
Now, Matthew Lillard is working really hard to not only be the worst he's ever been, but the worst any actor has ever been! As the King's treacherous nephew,he comes off like an obnoxious frat guy in an inept school play, talking in a ridiculous nondescript accent. It's hard to believe that there could be an even shittier performance in one film, but Ray Liotta was up to the challenge! You have to see it to believe it, the star of "Goodfellas" looking like a cross between Saruman and Liberace, hamming it up like he's playing the villain in an episode of "Mighty Morphing Power Rangers", going as far as doing a stupid evil laugh ("Mwa ha ha ha ha!")... I think we have a winner! Or should I say loser?

Although their description of Matthew Lillard’s performance seems spot on, I have to disagree with their assessment that Ray Liotta’s performance was bad. I imagine that ridiculous over the top caricature is exactly what Uwe Boll was going for, and Ray Liotta nailed it! He seemed like he was enjoying playing the stereotypical cookie cutter pure evil over the top villain, and I think he was probably the only person having fun during the two weeks they spent slapping together this crapfest. At least his ridiculous character provided a small island of humor in the otherwise mind numbingly boring ocean of this film. I’m sticking with Matthew Lillard as the worst actor in the film.

Maybe someone would be able to ignore the nonsensical plot and terrible characters for the action scenes, but not me. The action seemed forced, tedious and far from exciting. Perhaps someone who likes tasteless and pointless action can enjoy it, but when you hope all the characters die horrible deaths, it may ruin the suspense and excitement that a good filmmaker would be trying to create. Plus, Uwe Boll is far from a good filmmaker, so who knows if he was even trying to create excitement. My sister was so bored she started surfing the web and was just looking at random people’s myspace pages and laughing at how lame they are.

Now, one of the reasons I didn’t see this in its theatrical run was because I had heard they cut 30 minutes out for the US version. I was hoping the DVD would be the definitive director’s cut version. Unfortunately, it was only the 127 minute theatrical cut. Maybe they had half an hour of deleted scenes on the DVD. I wasn’t very motivated to check after completing the film and not being the least bit entertained despite loving B movies. Another thing is that this movie was PG-13, which removed the typical crutches Uwe uses to make his movies watchable – over the top gore and nudity. I think without those, it really shows that he is utterly talentless. Well, scratch that. He is very talented at raising money for movies. He managed to get 60-70 million for this stinker – probably by pitching it by saying "it’s like Lord of the Rings"!

Anyway, I can’t bring myself to devote any more words reviewing this piece of crap, so it’s time for the ratings!

Production Values: 2.0 – The 70 million went somewhere. I’m not quite sure where, but the production values aren’t bad.

Story: 8.0 – I can’t really quite place what was so terrible about it, but it was incredibly dull and extremely difficult to not only try to care about the characters, but to continue watching

Action: 4.0 – There’s plenty of action. I just had trouble caring about anything in this stinker.

Faithfulness to the video game source: 6.0 – There was Krug, Ehb, and the protagonist was a farmer (although he wasn’t named farmer in the game because that’s just plain stupid).

Laughs: 8.0 – (Less turds means funnier) Unfortunately except for Ray Liotta’s horrible overacting, this movie wasn’t funny. It was just painful.

Total Turds: 7.5 – It’s difficult to find anything to like about this film. It’s not quite as appallingly awful as Uwe’s other films, but unfortunately, that makes it a lot less funny.

PS. Look forward to me reviewing Uwe Boll’s non-video game based movies, which he always mentions when responding to criticism. Somehow he thinks that they can’t call him a bad director just because he did a terrible job directing the video game based films. You have to be intimately familiar with the full body of his work to criticize him. I plan on becoming just that! (My Hitman review is coming next though.)

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