by Benjamín Harguindey
If you have an internet connection you’ve heard of Uwe Boll, and if you have no sense of shame you’ve probably seen at least some of his movies.
Boll is of course that filmmaker who exploits tax loopholes in his native Germany to continually churn out films regardless of financial success. At their worst, his movies score 1% over at Rotten Tomatoes and perpetually head the Worst Movies lists of Metacritic and IMDB; Boll himself has been the recipient of a number of Golden Raspberry Awards and the target of several petitions to retire (which he did in October 2016, citing a “dead market”).
He has been compared to a modern-day Ed Wood, which is unfair on Wood. If nothing else, Wood was passionate about his movies and he infused them with a kind of amateur enthusiasm reminiscent of a child wielding a camera, aping his favorite directors. He produced B movies that didn’t even try to mask their nonexistent production values because he earnestly believed that all they needed was for the passion to transpire, never mind that his direction was tone-deaf and color-blind.
The decadent, glamorous Ed Wood produced moments of deadpan comedy you could never tap into willingly; lines like “Visits? That would indicate visitors!” have a campy brilliance of their own. Compare his single worst movie, Plan 9 From Outer Space (1956), to any of Boll’s unfortunate oeuvre and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything closely resembling love for the craft or any such accidental brilliance.
All of this to say that Far Cry (2008) is a bad, bad film. Like many of his other movies, it is based on a videogame (a good one, not that you could tell from this). It doesn’t even have the benefit of being entertainingly bad, like Boll’s infamous Alone in the Dark (2005), but merely tediously bad, because nobody in the film’s trying all that much. We don’t get any stupendously awful choices like Stephen Dorff seething with generic rage or Tara Reid aping a scientist by putting on glasses and donning the coat. Far Cry is like a car crash with none of the appeal.
We expect the wooden acting and the generic dialogue from the get-go (a group of soldiers are somewhere, being killed by something) but Boll’s poor direction is outmatched by his own tastelesness. The camera cranes up and down over the scene, swinging at weird angles, serving no purpose and settling on nothing of interest. A soldier is killed and the camera pans around to slowly reveal with a sense of childish sadism the remains of the back of his head, but rather than smash-cutting on the reveal the movie instead fades to black before the pan is over, as if hiding the shoddy FX. Boll is constantly torn between his childish desire to shock you and his evident lack of talent to do so.
We learn that the whole thing was an experiment headed by Dr. Krieger (played by professional weirdo Udo Kier), tasked with creating a series of genetically modified soldiers in a secret island laboratory. We then meet Jack Carver (Til Schweiger), a former German soldier offering boat tours off the coast of Canada, and reporter Valerie (Emmanuelle Vaugier), whose uncle has gone missing on the island and is also working on an expose on Krieger.
For a while the movie cuts between the mainland and the island scenes, proving that Boll not only has no sense for directing his actors or working the camera, but for editing his own film as well. Because we’re constantly cutting between the heroes and the villains, there’s no mounting sense of dread, no shred of mystery, no expectation of any kind. We know who the villain is, what he’s doing, what the super soldiers look like, what they can do and of course the fate of Valerie’s uncle. All we’re left with is watching a boring movie unfold artlessly. Boll doesn’t understand the function of each part in a story and the importance in pacing them correctly. Imagine if Jurassic Park showed the T-Rex before our heroes even made it to the island?
Jack ferries Valerie, of course, and is forced to team up with her after his boat is blown up. Their characters must fall for each other, and here you’re challenged to find a couple with as little chemistry between them as this. They barely register each other’s presence in the room, reciting their lines with a detachment that rivals Tommy Wiseau’s. Schweiger, such a magnetic presence as ‘Hugo Stiglitz’ in whatever minutes he had on Inglorious Basterds (2009), comes across as meek and uncompelling. Vaugier is an even worse performer, either incapable or unwilling to show emotion on any level. Because she was at least a dependable damsel in Saw II (2005) we must default the blame to Boll.
The painful nadir of this match-up is a lengthy sequence where the couple seeks refuge in an abandoned cabin in the woods and then we get the usual sitcom tango of being forced to undress because their clothes are soaked, being forced to share the one bed and then being forced to cuddle because they’re cold. The actors simply don’t have the chemistry to make the scene sexy or funny – if anything, they look like they’re laughing at the scene as they’re playing it.
Udo Kier alone seems like he knows what he’s doing and is having fun with it as well. Everybody else, frankly, is annoying. Boll seems to think of anybody who isn’t the protagonist and the villain as annoying – the annoying couple that employs Jack, the annoying couple that rents Jack’s boat, Valerie’s annoying boss and then Emilio (Chris Coppola), who gets thrown in as Jack’s bumbling sidekick 30 minutes into the movie’s end and proves to be the most annoying character of them all.
At this point probably more critical thought has been applied to this movie than during the whole of its production. It’s just a dull piece of filmmaking that doesn’t even have the benefit of being appealingly awful – a wall-to-wall lackluster ride fueled by poor craftsmanship and lack of talent. Boll may not be dead, but his career is, and that’s just as well.
Benjamín Harguindey / Managing Editor, Writer (Mar del Plata, Argentina – 1989) Screenwriter graduated from Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires. Benja’s worked for EscribiendoCine as a film critic since 2010, covering the Biarritz, San Sebastián and Venice festivals. He judged the CILECT Prize and won several writing & criticism contests. He’s published one novel, Noches de Tartaria (2006).