In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007) dir. Uwe Boll
Starring: Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Ron Perlman, John Rhys-Davies, Matthew Lillard, Burt Reynolds
It was a fun screening last night with the infamous Uwe “Bloodrayne” Boll present in the audience. “In the Name of the King” is being billed as Uwe Boll’s largest budget to date, conspicuously leaving out the quality of the film. As a piece of adventure fantasy cinema the film is fantastic, but it’s also hampered by easily some of the worst performances this year. With an After Dark Festival audience it was terrific night out, but when it comes to competing with regular weekend box-office audiences that’s a different story.
The crowd was indeed primed to watch a Uwe Boll film. Mr. Boll’s humourous self-effacing introduction gave us permission to laugh at the bad parts and cheer the good parts. The story is typical of the genre. The evil sorcerer Gallian (Ray Liotta) has created an army of Krugs (like LOTR’s Orcs), laid siege to the land and taken over the Kingdom of his uncle King Konreid (Burt Reynolds). Jason Statham plays a humble farmer named Farmer (seriously) turned reluctant hero who summons latent but powerful fighting skills in order to rescue his kidnapped wife.
Farmer is joined by his mentor Norick (Ron Perlman) and his brother-in-law Bastian (Will Sanderson). Along the way Farmer discovers some secrets about his association with King Konreid and must reconcile the needs of the people with his own desire to save his wife. Much sword fighting, horse riding, magic conjuring ensues in this fun “Lord of the Rings” knock off.
The film looks fantastic, and though the fighting is 100% bloodless Boll and martial arts expert Siu-Tung Ching (of the Zhang Zimou films) choreograph some terrific epic action scenes. The film has an aged sepia-toned quality to it –unpolished and raw, like an untimed one-light transfer from the cut negative. Ironically it was refreshing to see a film without the dousing of an over-processed colour palette and digital effects.
Burt Reynolds’ performance was so bad every time he entered a scene he drew fits of laughter from the audience, and even more when Boll cut to the close-ups of his obviously face-lifted face. In fact, Jason Statham deserves an award for keeping a straight face through Reynolds’ bedside death scene, which is drawn out to a magnificent five minutes of agony. As mentioned, with the jazzed After Dark audience the scene drew thunderous applause.
Also turning in over-the-top performances are Ray Liotta at his maniacal best as the evil scorceror, and Matthew Lillard hamming it up as Konreid’s snot-nosed delinquent nephew and heir-to-the-throne. The rest of the cast knows their place in this expensive b-movie realm as well. Leelee Sobieski is comfortable saying the bad dialogue, as is Clare Forlani. Ron Perlman is perfectly cast and is at his grizzly best. Brian J. White also keeps a straight face and turns in a noble performance as the leader of the King’s army. He makes a strong case to be a future action star. But the film is all about Jason Statham’s star persona, and he delivers with great action chutzpah. Every leap, sword swipe, and leg slash is matched with a snarling squinting stare. Few actors today could do this role better than he.
The film has the honour of being part Canadian and being filmed in the glorious Rocky Mountains of B.C. (eat your heart out New Zealand). While it’s certainly no “Lord of the Rings” Boll has turned in a decent part-action film, part unintentional comedy, which deserves to be in the “so bad it’s good” column. Enjoy.
P.S. The film will be released in U.S. and Canada in Jan 2008.
Here’s a cool trailer to keep you going till then: