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Mention the name Uwe Boll to any film reviewer whose beat includes genre movies, and you’ll probably detect immediate signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Anyone who has sat through such stupefyingly bad films as “Alone in the Dark” and “Bloodrayne” will understand the reason for the condition and why the director’s latest effort, “In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale,” is only going to exacerbate it. The film opened Friday in wide release, naturally without being screened for the press.
Boll specializes in adaptations of video games, and such is the case with this film, based on the popular “Dungeon Siege” series. A “Lord of the Rings”-style fantasy adventure, it boasts the filmmaker’s largest budget ($60 million) to date as well as a large cast of notable performers who apparently thought reading the script in advance was unnecessary.
Thus, we have action star Jason Statham playing the central character of Farmer, a name that describes the guy’s profession as well. Farmer spends his days tilling his fields with the help of his wife (Claire Forlani) and young son. Despite his lethal proficiency with a boomerang, he is a peaceful sort, unwilling even to kill the birds eating his crops.
All that changes when his son is killed and his wife is kidnapped by the Krug, animalistic beasts serving at the pleasure of Gallian (Ray Liotta), a wizard who clearly relishes his villainy. When he’s not roughly seducing the king’s young daughter (Leelee Sobieski), Gallian plots to kill the aging monarch (Burt Reynolds) and his loyal aide (John Rhys-Davies) and replace him with the sniveling Duke Fallow (Matthew Lillard).
Meanwhile, Farmer, accompanied by his aging mentor (Ron Perlman) and untested brother-in-law (Will Sanderson), races through the countryside in pursuit of his wife, battling the Krug minions and encountering exotic figures likes the sexy leader of a group of tree nymph warriors (Kristanna Loken).
While the film boasts some decently staged, large-scale action sequences courtesy of fight director Tony Ching, it’s completely undone by its terrible screenplay, inept direction, oppressive musical score and muddy visual palette. (Regarding the last point, it seems shot neither in black and white nor color but simply brown).
Somehow, despite the utter ludicrousness of the proceedings — the flaming human catapults being but one example — the film never achieves a suitable level of camp that would make it at least unintentional fun. It also is terminally boring at its 127-minute running time, making one supremely grateful that a half-hour has been cut for this U.S. release.
The performers vary in their level of commitment to the material. Statham basically sleepwalks through his role, except when performing physical stunts; Liotta, frequently shot through a swirling mist, overacts as if in a silent movie; and Rhys-Davies seems to be nostalgically longing for the Indiana Jones films. Only Perlman manages to maintain his dignity thanks to his sly underplaying, while Reynolds seems merely sad in his ridiculous role as the king, as if wondering how he went from being the industry’s No. 1 boxoffice attraction to this.
IN THE NAME OF THE KING: A DUNGEON SIEGE TALE
Boll KG Prods. in association with Herold Prods. and Brightlight Pictures
Director: Uwe Boll
Screenwriter: Doug Taylor
Producers: Shawn Williamson, Dan Clarke
Executive producers: Uwe Boll, Chet Holmes, Wolfgang Herold
Director of photography: Mathias Neumann
Production designer: James Steuart
Music: Jessica de Rooj, Jenning Lohner
Costume designer: Toni Burroughs-Rutter, Carla Hetland
Editor: Paul Klassen, David M. Richardson
Farmer: Jason Statham
Merick: John Rhys-Davies
Gallian: Ray Liotta
Duke Fallow: Matthew Lillard
Muriella: Leelee Sobieski
King Konreid: Burt Reynolds
Bastian: Will Sanderson
Norick: Ron Perlman
Solana: Claire Forlani
Commander Tarish: Brian J. White
Elora: Kristanna Loken
Running time — 127 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
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