RAMPAGE: PRESIDENT DOWN
(Canada - 2016)
RAMPAGE: CAPITAL PUNISHMENT felt like a love letter to mass shooters, PRESIDENT DOWN at least admits that words and actions have consequences and by the end, Bill is most certainly the villain with a lot of blood on his hands. But the road there is paved with some welcome bits of old-school Boll idiocy that's not helped by the director struggling with his lowest budget yet. His German tax shelter heyday of being able to afford the likes of Ben Kingsley, Jason Statham, and Burt Reynolds a fading memory, Boll can't even corral cheap labor on the level of past RAMPAGE co-stars like Matt Frewer or Lochlyn Munro. Boll unsuccessfully tried to crowdfund the film--originally titled RAMPAGE 3: NO MERCY--on Indiegogo and Kickstarter but failed to meet his goal, leading to an inevitable YouTube meltdown excoriating fans for giving their money to Hollywood studios while not helping out important artists like Dr. Uwe Boll. So with a lot less money at his disposal, Boll relies heavily on flashbacks and stock footage from the first two films, and mainly has Fletcher's Bill posting YouTube rants from his hiding place in the middle of nowhere, which may be the perfect metaphor for 2016 Uwe Boll.
Long thought dead after the events of the previous film, Bill emerges from hiding to assassinate the President, Vice President, and Secretary of Defense during a speech to Congress. Of course, how he manages to accomplish this is a mystery, since it happens offscreen. The FBI, vowing to get to the bottom of the assassinations, assigns two--yes, two--agents, Molokai (Steve Baran) and Jones (Ryan McDonnell) and a Bureau computer expert (Scott Patey) to run the investigation out of what looks like an underfunded police precinct. Bill manages to hack into their computer system with the help of a mole inside the FBI, and once Molokai and Jones (worst cop show title ever?) spot him on some surveillance footage outside the White House, he starts taunting them from his undisclosed location and threatening their families. Unfortunately, the agents are unable to convince their bosses that Bill is the culprit because a publicity-hogging ISIS claims responsibility for the assassinations, prompting the reactionary new Commander-in-Chief to round up all the Muslims and Syrian refugees in the US, close all the mosques, and nuke the Middle East "with the full support of Russia and China." The notion of an irrational, knee-jerk US President content with blowing up a good chunk of the world is an uncomfortably prescient notion that Boll completely sidesteps and never mentions again. There's no satire, no poking people with sticks--instead, the focus is on Molokai and Jones finding out where Bill is hiding and leading a raid where of course, Bill gets the edge on everyone, but Jones makes it easy by not even bothering to wear a bulletproof vest.
The message is muddled: Bill says he wants a world without violence in a film that opens with him shooting a random pedestrian in cold blood and concludes with him killing about a hundred FBI agents. Nothing here makes sense: why does Bill suddenly have a girlfriend (Crystal Lowe) and a kid? And how can he be presumed dead when he's actively posting videos to his YouTube channel to his legion of supporters? And when news of the assassinations of the President, VP, and Defense Secretary hits the wire, watch the only two news anchors seen in the film exclaim "Oh my God! The President is dead!" as the camera pans down to her reading the info off of a second page, as if that news a) would come over a teletype in 2016, and b) would be relegated to the second page. And are we to believe that the only two guys investigating the murder of the President, VP and Defense Secretary would exit a building and be confronted by one reporter? And it's one of the two news anchors we just saw? Boll ineptly inserts talking points about gun control and police brutality, but then he and Fletcher (they co-wrote the script together) go off on tangents about Hollywood's richest celebrities. There's jabs at Tom Cruise and Jennifer Aniston, and the murders of Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and Mark Zuckerberg among others are announced over the course of the film. These bits sound less like legitimate grievances about tabloid culture and more like a case of sour grapes from Boll and Fletcher because they aren't in the club. Canadian actor Fletcher's been around since the late '90s and was in hits like AIR BUD and FREDDY VS. JASON, and some Canadian arthouse films. He's also made eight movies with Uwe Boll. Dude, maybe that's why you're not in the club. You were in THE REVENANT (notice that Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't make Bill's Hollywood shit list). Maybe take a break from Uwe and start hanging out with Leo or Alejandro Inarritu a little more. You'll have time: Boll was so angry about the lack of fan support for the funding of RAMPAGE: PRESIDENT DOWN that he announced it would be his final film. Indeed, a post-credits stinger finds a pensive Boll tipping his hat to the camera and walking into the sunset. If that's the case, let me just say that for all your many, many faults, you were certainly never boring, Dr. Boll. Thanks for everything. I guess. (Unrated, 100 mins)
A BIGGER SPLASH
(Italy/France - 2016)
(US - 2016)
WOLF CREEK 2. Working with horror factory Blumhouse, THE DARKNESS is McLean's first Hollywood production and it couldn't possibly be any more predictably generic and lazy. During a family trip to the Grand Canyon, autistic Mikey Taylor (David Mazouz) finds some rocks with strange symbols and takes them as souvenirs. It isn't long before paranormal activity manifests itself back home, with Mikey talking to an unseen entity called "Jenny," and sooty handprints turning up all over the house. Dad Peter (Kevin Bacon, visibly bored) and Mom Bronny (Radha Mitchell) are too preoccupied to notice the supernatural goings-on or that their angry older daughter Stephanie (Lucy Fry) is bulimic and saving containers of her purgings under her bed as a way of acting out her resentment toward Mikey. After more shenanigans, like a possessed Mikey starting a fire and trying to kill his grandmother's cat, and all manner of standard-issue Blumhouse jump scares, Bronny discovers that some Anasazi curse has latched itself to Mikey and starts to believe this is some kind of karmic retribution over her past alcoholism (she falls off the wagon) and Peter's past infidelity (and he's tempted again by young intern at work).