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German director Uwe Boll has taken more than his share of critical knocks over the years thanks to such films as House of the Dead and BloodRayne, but you have to at least give him credit for tapping into the populist zeitgeist with his latest effort, Assault on Wall Street. Sort of a Death Wish for the Occupy Wall Street generation, this revenge drama offers the cathartic experience of watching an aggrieved blue-collar worker mowing down an array of financial industry fat cats. If only it was more fun.
This more sober than usual effort for the prolific filmmaker was originally called Bailout: The Age of Greed, a title more appropriate for a PBS documentary. Its current moniker more accurately reflects its Taxi Driver aesthetic, emphasized none too subtly in a scene when the main character practices his lethal moves in front of a mirror.
He’s Jim (Dominic Purcell), a hard working security guard for an armored truck company who’s fallen victim to the rapacious investment bankers who’ve drained his life savings. His financial woes only mount due to the exorbitant medical expenses by his wife Rosie’s (Erin Karpluk) life-threatening illness.
Advised by his smarmy stockbroker (Lochlyn Munro) that “that’s how investment works … it gives and it takes away,” Jim desperately seeks a loan from his banker, who refuses.
“Fuck you,” Jim spits out, to which the banker replies, “That’s a fair response, I suppose.”
Nor is he given much comfort by an unctuous lawyer (Eric Roberts) who makes vague promises of a class-action settlement if only Jim can come up with a $10,000 retainer.
When Rosie winds up killing herself out of desperation, the grief-stricken Jim plans his violent revenge, purchasing an arsenal from a sleazy arms dealer (Clint Howard) and targeting his victims by perusing financial magazines. Chief among them is Jeremy Stancroft (John Heard, in full villain mode), the investment bank head who shows only contempt for the investors he’s fleeced.
Interspersed with fateful news reports about the national financial crisis, the film lurches towards its predictably bloody conclusion, with Jim mowing down an array of financial types wearing expensive suits before his big showdown with the chief villain.
Surprisingly, the usually over-the-top filmmaker takes a subdued approach to the pulpy proceedings, keeping things at a low boil with seemingly endless shots of his depressed hero riding the NYC subways. The slack pacing, as well as Purcell’s tedious, stone-faced performance, prevents the film from being the giddy guilty pleasure it might have been.
Although he’s populated the film with actors with solid B-movie credentials, including Edward Furlong, Michael Pare and Keith David as Jim’s supportive friends, Boll here seems to be aspiring to a more serious level, with mostly dismal results. It seems strange to say, but what he really needed to do was tap into his inner schlockmeister.
Opens May 10 (Phase 4 Films)
Production: Lynn Peak Productions
Cast: Dominic Purcell, Edward Furlong, Erin Karplunk, Eric Roberts, John Heard, Keith David, Clint Howard
Director/screenwriter: Uwe Boll
Producers: Dan Clarke, Shawn Williamson
Production designer: Geoff Wallace
Composers: Jessica de Rooij
Rated R, 101 min.
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