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April 30, 2011

Movie Review: In the Name of the King, A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007)

Uwe Boll is generally considered the worst mainstream director alive today. From horror movies based on video games (House of the Dead) to ... other horror-type films based on video games (Bloodraine, Postal), Boll shows his ineptitude with not just the camera but with dialog, actors, scripts, and pretty much every other aspect of film. Watching a Boll movie is a gut check for even the most die hard bad film seeker like myself. There is just nothing good this man does to the movie screen, and one wonders why anyone helps him finance his projects.

Buy In the Name of the King - A Dungeon Siege Tale on DVD

However, one has to respect Dr. Boll, for he manages to keep cranking out product year after year with no money from Hollywood and a steady stream of Big Name Actors (although, to be fair, most of them are no longer A-list by the time he gets them - kind of like Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi without the heroin). Which brings us to his 2007 overblown fantasy project "In The Name of the King, a Dungeon Siege Tale", which was based on, you guessed it, a video game.

The main plot of the film regards a farmer (Jason Statham) named Farmer (ha ha), who gets caught up in a conflict between the King (Burt Reynolds) and his nephew (Matthew Lilliard) after Farmer's son is killed and his wife is kidnapped during a fight with some orcs, er, Krugs, who are being controlled by Ray Liotta, the nephew's resident wizard, who is stealing his power from Leelee Sobeiski, the daughter of the King's mage John Ryhs-Davies, who is about as thin here as I've ever seen him. There is a forest with some leather-armored women who ride on prehensile vines with a mind of their own that everyone seems to ride through on their way to .. somewhere. And ... that's about it. The nephew wants to be king, so he's trying to off Reynolds, and starts a "war", which seems to primarily involve attacking a village which is little more than a few huts and some market stalls. Then Liotta poisons the king, who does not die, and steal some of his army under false pretenses. Then they fight. Kind of.

To say this is a bad movie ignores the reality of it being a terrible movie. Boll does not miss a single cliche, from the grizzled veteran (Ron Perlman), to the secret identity of the King's Heir (guess), to the power-hungry nephew, etc. The cinematography is (mostly) perfunctory and devolves into a bunch of close ups and quick cuts during the action scenes. The editing is sloppy at best - a hack job at worst. The music, with the exception of the songs playing over the end credits, is unremarkable and forgettable.

Boll doesn't stop there, though. He is completely inept at getting any sorts of performances out of his actors. Lilliard is disgusting, dripping food out of his mouth, drooling, and scowling the whole time as if he is stopped up from all that rich food. Sobeieski is about as un-sexy here as it is possible to be, even when she is wearing her armor and kicking ass. Statham, luckily, doesn't have many lines of dialog, but the ones he does have could pretty much be from any movie he's ever done. Ray Liotta seemingly raided Nick Cage's Ghost Rider wardrobe, and Burt Reynolds, well, this is the best day's work he's ever slept through.

Oddly, though, the performances, as terrible as they are, are perfect for the vehicle. While the plot just gets in the way of the action, the acting never jumps out in front of the plot. Reynolds' king is sleepy and unimpressed, much like one would expect a king with nothing to do but sit around all day and eat would be. Lilliard is brutish and stupid, exactly like a power-hungry buffoon would be. Sobeiski is pretty flat, and Liotta is channeling a much-subdued Jeromy Irons from Dungeons and Dragons, but Rhys-Davies is decent as the king's mage.

The thing Dr. Boll gets right, somehow, is the production design. I'm not sure how much money this film cost to make, but every single penny is on the screen. While the acting is perfunctorily shot and claustrophobic, the aerial views and second unit landscapes are lush and interesting. The CGI inserted castles and enhancements are beautiful. The castle interiors and villages are almost as well done as Lord of the Rings, if on a much smaller scale. The Krugs, well, look like what they are, people in masks, but they look like they should be there with everything else. And the magic effects look very cool; Liotta's scenes looking through the mask of a life-sized murderous mannequin is ripped right from LOTR, and there is perhaps the coolest teleportation effect in this film that I have ever seen.

So, is this a terrible film? Yes. Yes it is. But does it work? Shockingly, yes. The film for all of its flaws is very watchable. If this had been Dr. Boll's first film, we would all be talking about the "up and coming director" Uwe Boll. Unfortunately, since we have his entire oeuvre behind him to use as a gauge, we know he'll just never get any better than this, especially considering just how belligerent he is about his "talent". (Recently, he took to the ring and beat the crap out of his critics who were brave enough to show up.) Of course, as far as career highlights go, this is not a bad one to have. While the only other Boll films I've seen is "House of the Dead" and "Far Cry" (they were on cable), I know enough about his other "offerings" to have stayed far, far away. I'll probably never watch another of his movies, partly because as good as this film is, it is pretty bad, and partly because as bad as this film is, he'll never get any better.

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