I wasn’t aware of this but apparently Uwe Boll has a shitty rep as a filmmaker. This is the first film I have ever seen by him and while there are some flaws, I considered Rampage pretty good. Rampage is basically a nihilistic rumination on the ills of society and misguided yet questionably effective way to change it. Think about how the true major shifts of American society have come about. They come about through fear and a threat to your lifestyle. Usually large scale violence is the only thing that makes Americans (or western society) look inward and reflect on their excess.  Usually this inflection is temporary but sometimes changes stick when these events occur (bombings, mass shooting, torture etc…). I am not suggesting mass murder is the answer to the worlds problems, or there aren’t positive ways to change our culture for the better. I am just saying that large shifts in the American way of life for better or worse usually correlate with a tragic event.

On to the film – Rampage is set in an Oregon suburb. You start out meeting your protagonist Bill Williamson (Played by Brendan Fletcher). He is a 23 year old kid still living at home with his parents who has yet to decide on a path to the American Dream (college, job, wife etc…). Through foreshadowing of various scenes you see he does have a plan. Bill’s parents ride him about getting out of the house and doing something with his life. He is resistant and his clueless parents pass it off as him being lazy. Meanwhile he is cooking something up in the basement and in his room. The film builds up with Bill doing the menial and boring activities of his day. All the while in the background you are hearing the depressing news of no particular political path playing in the background (Terrorism, Degradation of the environment, overpopulation, Political Scandal etc…). While Bill has already obviously snapped when the movie starts this part of the film is trying to give you an idea of how he got there. He goes to meet his friend Evan to have lunch who is the quintessential anti-establishment kid that talks alot but doesn’t really have any answers. The discussion is one that you have probably been involved in, myself included. There are so many problems and no real answers. Little does Evan know Bill has his own psychopathic narcissistic plan up his sleeve. After this part of the film comes  the 30+ minute rampage through town. Bill dons some crazy black armored gear he has been building and straps up with a crazy arsenal. He starts off by driving a van with explosives into the towns police station. I didn’t count but he mows down at least 50 unsuspecting people in the streets of this town ironically called “Tenderville”. The actual killing spree itself is actually interjected with some improvisation and comedic scenes. I will not spoil what happens after the “rampage” because there is a good twist at the end. Apparently most of the dialogue in this movie was improvised. Bad dialogue is my major complaint about the film, it is meant to look unscripted and have the effect of everyday people talking, it comes off contrived. With that said the movie still gets its point across very effectively. I also have to add that despite the gruesome nihilistic nature of the film, the gore is minimal.


IP Man

IP Man is a hyperbolic biopic about Yip Man the original Wing Chun martial arts master (Also known for training Bruce Lee). The film is set in  Foshan which known for being the hotbed of martial arts schools. Even with all the schools available  there is still one man who has yet to open a school but people are dying to be his “disciples”. That one man being IP Man(played by Donnie Yen). Ip Man seems to have a comfortable life style and is trying to concentrate on being  a family man with his wife and son. Multiple school masters and bandit groups continue to interrupt IP Man’s family lifestyle by challenging him in defense of their own credibility. These attempts of course prove unsuccessful because IP Man’s skills are superior to anyone in Foshan. In come the Japanese. The film moves forward to Japanese occupied Foshan. IP Man along with the rest of the town are living on rations of rice without work at the hands of the brutal occupiers.  A Japanese military man who is fond of martial arts host battles with Japanese fighting Chinese to display whose martial arts are better. While the military leader seems to have a soft spot for the Chinese martial arts by giving them rice for matches they win, he has a side kick who doesn’t have that same respect. IP Man hears of one of his friend being killed in a battle at the Japanese arena and decides to go check it for himself. While watching he sees one of his people murdered after winning fairly. The sidekick of the military leader decides to shoot the unsuspecting victor in the back of the head. This is where IP Man gets pissed and decides to intervene. Probably one of the most incredible fight scenes from a martial arts film ensues. The Japanese Military leader is impressed and decides he wants to personally challenge IP man himself. The battle is on! After some training montages the battle is set to begin. This is a true battle of Japanese martial arts v. Chinese Martial arts. It is also a fight for the dignity of the Chinese who have been so brutally oppressed by the Japanese. IP Man straight up beats the shit out of the Japanese dude (another great fight scene). While im sure this film had no problem passing Chinese Government censors and if propagandist in nature. It is still a beautifully shot film and the plot has enough drama but not too much. Of course the plot is only a small portion of what makes this film great. This movie is all about Donnie Yen and his bad ass skills! Hands down!

Invisible Waves

Asano Tadanobu, whom some consider to be Japan’s Johnny Depp, can play a wide variety of roles from a wild killer (Ichi the Killer), to a tragic, somber samurai (Zatoichi) to a quiet, gentle bookstore owner (Café Lumiere). The role in “Invisible waves”, however, is one that is closest to his star persona. Kyoji, a luckless cook finding himself in a somewhat inexplicable affair and ending up being the perpetrator of a dubious murder, flees Macau and Hong Kong, in a miserably claustrophobic cabin hole to Phuket, looking for an elusive shady character “Lizard” the boss has arranged for him to meet. A non-event, an encounter on the liner with a young woman (intriguing Kang Hye-Jeong from Korea’s 2004 “Old Boy”) who keeps dumping her baby on him so that she can go to swim, makes up another line of the “plot”.

Instead of developing the suspense and relating elements, the movie makers focus on the minimalism existence of Kyoji (or non-existence, if you prefer). The thinking may be that if the audience is not drawn through the same boredom, how can they empathize with Kyoji’s boredom with life? At the end of the two hours  things do have a degree of coherence and there is proper closure.

One interesting thing about this movie is that most of it is in English, the common language between the Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Korean characters. Most of these characters speak in way that it is demonstrated in no uncertain terms that English is indeed their second language. This, ironically, contributes to enhancing the sense of absurdity that is such a crucial, integral part of this movie.

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