Uwe Boll is disappointingly pleasant. His name strikes fear into the hearts of movie fans (and those who’ve watched Blackwoods at 2 a.m.), but when you’re in the same room as the most infamous of infamous directors, talking to him about his new film Assault on Wall Street, the most offensive thing about him is his German accent, and that’s only because all German accents are terrifying.
Where to begin with Boll? Do you start with him often being next to Ed Wood in the list of the worst directors of all-time, except unlike Wood, he doesn’t have a great Tim Burton movie to polish his legacy (yet…?)? Or maybe his string of awful to there-is-no-God-awful video game adaptations, including In the Name of the King (4% on Rotten Tomatoes), BloodRayne (4%), and naturally, BloodRayne 2: Deliverance (unrated; direct to DVD)? Or possibly his suing a film festival for $170 (and Billy Zane for $170,000), or his blogger boxing matches, or Blubberella, or Auschwitz, or the time he called Michael Bay and Eli Roth “f*cking retards”? OK, that last one was pretty great, but otherwise, it’s been a whole lotta nothing from the man whose middle finger picture will be on his tombstone.
So I regret to inform you that Assault isn’t terrible. Unlike most of Boll’s work, it’s meant to inspire. Inspire those who’ve been f*cked over by bankers to get violent revenge, but inspire nonetheless. Assault stars Dominic Purcell (Prison Break) as a blue-collar security guard with an extremely ill wife (Erin Karpluk) whose life is upended when…you get where this is going…and then there’s an absolute bloodbath. The film isn’t subtle in the least and spends too much time drowning in its nihilistic misery, but its anger is genuine; it never feels like Boll’s taking advantage of something terrible for his own personal gain (unlike his previous work). He’s genuinely pissed at what happened and all too happy to talk about it, as he did during our 10-minute interview in New York last month.
How soon into the crisis did you start working on the movie?
2010. I read a lot about it when it happened and I followed it, and it’s kind of absurd what happened, right? Everyone went back to normal after they pumped all the money into the investment bankers, and I started talking in Germany to a professor in the bailout commission, and he said, “In the beginning, they totally listened to the experts and then they completely ignored them.”
In watching all the movies, like Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps — I was really, really eager to watch Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps; I loved Wall Street. I couldn’t believe it. What was [Oliver Stone] doing? There was one bad guy, Josh Brolin, and for me, it was disappointing. Nobody showed the people who lost everything. I felt like we needed a gritty movie. So I started writing it.
Why do you think the first Wall Street was so successful and the second was such a turd?
I feel like Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko was 15 times better than Josh Brolin; the character was more fleshed out. In the first one, it was about starting the hedge fund business arbitrage, basically taking companies, squeezing, and throwing everyone out. But that’s child’s play compared to what happens later. I felt like Oliver Stone completely sold out. It’s also an advertisement movie. “No, no, it’s all good and there are only a few bad guys we have to take out.” But it’s not. If you see it mathematically, like how can a large bank, like Deutsche Bank, they make 24-25% profit every year for the stockholders, so how is it possible? If you invest money right now, you make 1% interest. You can loan money, borrow money for 3%, so how do they make 24-25% profit? They take all their money, what there is, and gamble with it. For themselves, basically.
I got so riled up about this, asking myself how is this possible. After an incident like this, you have to change the system, to divide the investment banking away from our money, our checking accounts. We can’t allow them to be in a position to say, “Oh, no one has any money anymore. We lost it.” Mortgages, loans, stuff like this needs to be separated from saving accounts, your normal investments by normal people, must be protected. If the investment side goes under, it goes under. Goodbye. But it’s not — it’s the same structure as before. We talk about gun control, it’s dangerous, but compared to this, it’s a joke. I felt, when I did the movie, I felt like, wow, it has to be big. But let’s face it, who gets the distribution? One cinema here, one cinema there, a little festival there. It’s so disappointing.
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At this point, Purcell peeked his head into the conference room where I was chatting with Boll. “You finally came,” Boll laughed. Without a hint of emotion, Purcell responded, “No one told me about it.” Boll chuckled again, Purcell left the room without saying another word, and I felt uncomfortable.
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I’m happy that the movie comes out, but I’m not happy that it’s not big enough. It’s a subject matter that everyone should be interested in watching, I think it’s turned into a very good movie because of Dominic and Erin. It makes me a little sad.
I’m wondering how literal the movie’s supposed to be taken. It’s very sympathetic toward, basically, a pissed-off guy who takes matters into his own hands, without the police.
I think, well, that specific case never happened. I had to make it so bad that he has nothing to lose anymore, that he really says, “I shoot everybody.” If you just lose your money, you’re not going on a rampage like this. But he lost everything, and the guilt that he feels about his wife killing herself and she doesn’t want to be a burden on him, he can’t not do anything. He has to go after these people. It is slow in the beginning, it’s step by step, lose your job because you’re in debt; they cannot have you transporting money, so you have to go. And as soon as you lose your job, the bank wants the loan, y’know? So you lose your house, and if you cannot pay the medical bills, basically, your wife dies. It’s that domino thing. For me, it was also about bringing the attorney in, so he’s just getting the retainer, he’s not really doing anything, then the other guy’s busy with other stuff. It’s kind of ridiculous, and this happened to tons of people. They tried to get legal advice and basically got screwed over. It’s important that it was long enough, like an hour-long setup, before he’s doing anything to anyone, and then he basically by accident kills that state attorney. It makes him feel like, I can get away with stuff. I should try more. Then he starts killing individual people. They all have to die; they deserve it. That’s what movies are for. You can do statements that are bigger than life.
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As you’ve probably noticed by now, Boll talks a lot. A lot a lot. He has a habit of explaining everything. As in, he literally retold the entire plot of his movie, a movie I had just seen. He’s extremely animated while doing so — when he gets excited, he waves his arms and almost always looks right at you, which isn’t so much an intimidation move as it is a way to get you to pay attention to him, like a drunk at the end of the bar — and ends nearly all of his sentences with “y’know?” I have a feeling that by the time I could have replied “no,” he would have been onto another point.
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Well, if you heard about a case like this in real life, would you feel sympathy for the guy?
I would, totally. If nobody brings justice, then why not? It’s always easy to talk about stuff that didn’t damage yourself, but if you see people that lose everything sitting on the street, well, why didn’t they do anything about it? You’ve tried all systems, then you’re basically getting selected out. You’re garbage. This is really the disappointing side of it, and the mainstream media just goes with it. They don’t interfere because they’re all working for companies on the stock market. They don’t want the big banks to dump them. The majority of the people just stay on silent, when they should be on the streets. The Occupy moment, it’s kind of sad. It’s the wrong people sitting there. We should be the Occupy, we should just f*cking rip Wall Street apart. I think the Occupy thing is great, but it’s a total failure. It doesn’t hit what really has to be changed. Hopefully something happens before the next balloon explodes.
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Uwe Boll would do really well for himself in a revolution. Anyway, it’s unclear how much Boll believes what he’s saying — that the little guy should stand up to The Man, any way he/she can — even after I pressed the issue. His “justice” is likely more figurative than literal, but Assault is awfully sympathetic to Purcell’s character, a non-verbal 21st century Travis Bickle.
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I’m curious about your thoughts on other recent ripped-from-the-headline movies.
I think both Argo and Zero Dark Thirty have super pro-CIA tendencies, which I have a problem with. They’re like, the CIA is the best organization in the world. The whole Bin Laden thing…I have to say, I think Argo is the better movie, because the story worked for me. It’s almost like how it was, maybe 10% more dramatic. Zero Dark, I have a problem with because I still don’t really believe that whole story. I just cannot believe it. Everyone in the movie has iPhones, everyone has cameras, there are Navy Seals writing books about it, but nobody releases a photo? If you have a photo of the dead Bin Laden, you can make five million bucks from that. This is what I don’t get. I looked at India and Pakistan, most of their media says the guy died six years ago of kidney failure. But you have nothing to sell. No, you need a drama, you need something like this. The details in Zero Dark Thirty, I was not happy with. I also didn’t like the Jessica Chastain character. She acts like she’s so sad about the whole torture, but completely goes with it. I totally disliked her. But I’m happy that movies like this are getting made. I love movies like The French Connection and Goodfellas, movies based on real stuff going on. I’m happy to watch movies like this compared to The Hobbit.
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Can’t argue with that. Assault on Wall Street comes out May 10th on VOD.