Uwe Boll (which is German for “Appalling Filmmaker”) has made a living over recent years (and has angered a great deal of people) by transforming beloved video game properties into epically awful movies. As a result, the cultural landscape has become tragically cluttered with unwatchable motion pictures such as House of the Dead, BloodRayne, Alone in the Dark and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. Boll’s latest video game adaptation-turned-sign-of-the-Apocalypse is 2008’s Far Cry, which was adapted from the PC shooter of the same name. The lush tropical island setting of the game has been replaced with the Pacific Northwest, and silently sneaking through the forest picking off soldiers has been replaced with abysmal dialogue and brainless, unexciting action scenes. Never thought it would happen, but Boll has reached yet another new low. After showing evidence that he may be improving in 1968 Tunnel Rats, Boll’s work is firmly back in the doldrums.
The protagonist of the video game is retained here: An ex-special forces operative named Jack Carver (Til Schweiger). Now a transport for hire, Jack accompanies investigative journalist Valerie Constantine (Emmanuelle Vaugier) to a mysterious island in the Pacific Northwest where she suspects something heinous is occurring. As it turns out, of course, her suspicions are proved to be correct. Occupying this island is mad scientist Dr. Krieger (Udo Kier), who is genetically engineering a race of super-soldiers. Jack and Valerie’s presence on the island is not exactly welcome, and henchmen are dispatched to take care of them. With Valerie captured and Jack’s boat destroyed, Jack enters reluctant hero mode.
It’s a very simple set-up that isn’t too far removed from the plot of the game. Problem is, it takes half an hour of this 90-minute film for the action to start. Sure, Boll tried to transcend the genre by taking his time to develop the characters and the plot, but the first 30 minutes are hopelessly marred by poor acting, poor dialogue and slipshod filmmaking. By the time the action set-pieces begin, things are so dark and poorly editing that all hope for a salvageable or even a watchable movie is shattered. Just to provide an example of how flat the action is: A river chase at one stage sees Jack’s speedboat heading for a randomly-placed ramp in the waterway. The music swells, the comic relief sidekick yelps, and the boat jumps the ramp in the most unspectacular and drab manner imaginable. No explosions, near-misses, great heights or great distances — this boring minor stunt is treated as a major money shot. All the shootouts, meanwhile, are hindered by Boll’s cinematic technique. The bad guys do stupid things, the cinematography is sloppy (even comedies contain more pulse-pounding car chases), the editing is terrible, and the action set-pieces come across as very amateurish, ordinary and bland. The music is woefully ineffectual, and the pacing is constantly uneven — the film drags when it should be brisk.
If Boll had aimed for just a straightforward ’80s-style action movie, it would still have been an uninspired filmic turd, but the entire enterprise is further soured by the shamefully asinine attempts at humor. The abysmal screenplay — which took three people to ruin — serves up every single action movie cliché in the book in terms of both dialogue and plot, in addition to being loaded with sophomoric punch-lines which fail so miserably one could swear they were witnessing jokes that belong in Disaster Movie. For instance Valerie has no idea what a hand grenade is, and thus, when she throws one without pulling the pin, Jack explains, You have to pull the pin. They’re useless with the pin!” Several “humorous” set-pieces are also thrown in which provoke sickness rather than laughter. The main offender: Jack and Valerie are nearly killed in a car chase shootout and wind up trapped on the deserted island with armed guards hunting them, and end up in an isolated shack. Rather than taking the situation seriously, they strip down, climb into bed, and engage in off-screen sex. All this provides is a running joke, with Jack continually asking Valerie to rate how he was in the sack on a scale of 1-10 and her repeatedly emasculating him with very low scores.
Before long, the terrible scripting gives way to excruciating acting with the introduction of a nails-on-chalkboard irritating comic relief sidekick: The dim-witted Emilio (Chris Coppola). He replaces Valerie as Carver’s sidekick halfway through the movie when Carver sneaks up on him to knock him out, but inadvertently saves the fatty from choking. A grossly overweight food delivery person caught in the crossfire, Emilio looks like a poor man’s Wayne Knight. And on the topic of awful acting, German action star Til Schweiger phones in a lazy performance as Jack Carver. Be on the lookout for Schweiger’s three facial expressions: blank, smiling, and “tough guy face.” His heavily accentuated acting is so embarrassingly phony that it makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look comparatively nuanced. In fact, Schweiger sounds so much like Uwe Boll that if an audio commentary was ever recorded with the two men, it’d be impossible to discern which of them is talking at any one time. Added to this, most of the cast are clearly not native English speakers, and their awkward accents mixed with the clunky dialogue makes for some truly cringe-worthy acting. Over and over again, Boll has demonstrated that he has no concept of how to extract believable performances from actors. Any instances of convincing acting that exist in his films are surely just flukes.
A lot of the folks who are fed up with the Boll hatred claim that people hate his movies because they’re stuck-up video game fans who whine like babies. But me? I’ve never played Far Cry. I don’t give a fuck if this is a disgrace to the Far Cry label. In fact, I’ve never played any games Boll has used as a basis for his movies. I’m judging Uwe Boll’s adaptations as standalone movies. And as an individual film, Far Cry is fucking awful — bad effects, blah action, a weak, nonsensical script, and a disproportionate amount of German actors who struggle to deliver their lines in English with any semblance of drama. I could name countless movies that may not be quality cinema in a conventional sense, but are still a fun way to kill 90 minutes. Far Cry is not one of them.