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Assault on Wall Street

2013 | 98 min | R | 1.85:1

Assault on Wall Street


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Theatrical release date

 10 May, 2013

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Assault on Wall Street Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, May 15, 2013

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an Uwe Boll picture, going to back 2008 when his last theatrical endeavor, “In the Name of the King,” blew in and out of multiplexes with the speed of a spring breeze. Since that time, Boll has gone on to direct 15 movies, living up to his Ed Wood legacy by churning out features at an alarming rate, with one of his last efforts titled “Blubberella” (oof). What was once goofy cult aimlessness has now become a private industry for Boll, who, despite his grim artistic reputation and the forgettable nature of his work, has managed to remain employed after all these years. Now the helmer puts the Financial Crisis of 2008 into his crosshairs, turning monetary ruin and one-percenter gloating into a revenge fantasy, putting a gun and a moronic script into the hand of the common man. Because it wouldn’t be Boll if there wasn’t borderline irresponsible storytelling.

A former military man, Jim (Dominic Purcell) leads an average blue-collar life with loving wife Rosie (Erin Karplunk), who’s been hit with a cancer diagnosis. Struggling to pay the mounting bills and keep on top of Rosie’s experimental gene therapy shots, Jim puts his faith into his investments, counting on their long-term stability. When the market crashes and his investment advisor (Lochlyn Munro) blows off his concern, Jim is left to fend for himself against bankruptcy, with outside forces shutting off access to medicine, draining his savings, and taking his house. While a co-worker (Edward Furlong) and his cop pals (Keith David and Michael Pare) show concern, Jim is reduced to a shell of a man when Rosie commits suicide. Now alone, unemployed, and angry, Jim stockpiles weaponry and goes after smug Wall Street types, killing his way to blowhard investment banking executive, Stancroft (John Heard).

It’s easy to spot exactly what type of response Boll is seeking with “Assault on Wall Street.” It’s a picture that preys on outrage, using the swell of disgust that’s been spilling over the financial sector to fuel a crude tale of retaliation, watching Jim stripped of everything he holds near and dear while the fat cats of the world are protected with pushover media coverage and government bailouts. It’s a tempting premise that invites an exploitative approach, enraging the viewer with displays of corruption and unfairness as Jim looks to stem the tide of his monetary downfall, putting his faith in a broken system while seeking legal advice from a bottom-feeding lawyer (Eric Roberts). With all these churning frustrations and fresh wound examples of widespread fraud, how could “Assault on Wall Street” possibly miss?

In Uwe Boll’s care, the screenplay is reduced to a collection of messy Crayola scribbles that mix Wikipedia facts about the Financial Crisis and its long shadow with everyday grunt camaraderie, watching Jim partake in a daily ritual of lunch at a greasy spoon with his fellow Average Joes, each one complaining about women and money. It’s repetitive, cardboard cutout characterizations that extend to dear, sweet Rosie, who, to cement Jim’s rage in full, is a domestic angel dying of cancer and can’t pay for her treatments. Surprisingly, Boll doesn’t give his leading man a mother with Alzheimer’s and a dog with three legs, just to make sure the audience understands that he’s a solid, hard-working guy who’s been dealt a rough hand, powerless to fight back against the suits and their mastery of the system.

In “Assault on Wall Street,” the good guys punch a clock, the bad guys wear ties, painting an extremely one-dimensional portrait of the conflict, finding Boll afraid or incapable of muddying the waters with a sophisticated dissection of blame. Jim has no flaws, and his blind faith in a disturbing system of risk is all the screenplay needs to issue him a license to kill, with the third act devoted his “Taxi Driver” rampage, stalking and shooting executives and legal forces, a few in broad daylight and in public places, keeping the picture in the realm of fiction. I comprehend how Boll desires to tap into the anguish of total financial and personal loss, but I’m not sure a murder spree is the answer people are looking for, despite its tempting visceral high. The movie doesn’t earn its eventual dissolve into violence, instead turning outrage into a carnival game without assessing the true price of revenge. In place of depicting a hollow man fed up with laws and corporate ghouls, Boll turns Jim into a vigilante superhero of sorts, possibly trying to instigate viewers into action. Of course, coming from a filmmaker who once made a 9/11 comedy, this type of goobery, fist-slamming statement isn’t surprising. However, in light of recent shootings and gun violence in America, Boll’s thesis couldn’t possibly be more poorly timed.

There are a few pluses to “Assault on Wall Street,” including a rare performance of vulnerability from limited leading man Purcell. While it’s not a layered turn, Boll knows how to use the hulking actor, while a supporting cast of semi-famous faces does the trick (Clint Howard also appears as a black market gun dealer), selling Boll’s cartoon with professionalism. The helmer’s technical achievements have also improved since I last encountered his work, with a professional shine to the movie that blends Vancouver locations with a few, possibly stolen, shots of New York City life. “Assault on Wall Street” certainly doesn’t look crummy, it just feels like it, soon coming to celebrate murder as the ultimate solution to the punishments and unfairness of life. Maybe it feels good in the moment, but the final message of empowerment through violence digests harshly afterwards.

Starring: Dominic Purcell, John Heard, Eric Roberts, Erin Karpluk, Edward Furlong, Keith David
Director: Uwe Boll

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