The Wolf of Wall Street hits the shelves in the UK this week, alongside this similarly-titled movie directed by none other than Uwe Boll. Based around the Global Recession and seen from the ground up, Assault attempts to channel the frustrations felt by the ‘little man’ in the same way that Taxi Driver tackled social alienation. However, unlike Travis Bickle whose flaws made Scorsese’s movie tragic, uncomfortable and actually interesting, Jim Baxford (Dominic Purcell), our would-be-hero of today’s focus, is glorified in a picture that supports violence as the answer to all life’s troubles.
A Touch of Sin, which I wrote about yesterday, neither condemned nor advocated such an ideal, concentrating solely on the motives that drive certain individuals to kill. Here we have nothing like that, only a single set piece which the movie takes an hour to get to, presumably because Boll thinks that if you give violence a big enough build-up, then it becomes ‘earned’. But what’s actually lacking is a build-up in the first place; all we get instead is a constant, ham-fisted reiteration of the idea that Baxford is put-upon by the hands that puppet the economy. His situation is indeed tragic, as his wife is dying and the financial crisis has prevented him from being able to afford her treatment, rendering him broke in the process, but were his struggle presented in a way other than the prosaic Law & Order-esque shade of grey that it is, then maybe there could be more of an emotional attachment forged with the character.
Don’t get me wrong; I really wanted to feel sorry for Baxford. I wanted his impending outburst to feel logical, as if it were the result of a man at the end of his tether, but it didn’t; it feels like a wholly conscious decision, and through the dullness of the movie’s presentation coupled with Dominic Purcell’s lethargic acting, it’s no doubt a translation of the director’s perceived attitude towards having to have a certain amount of exposition and stage-setting before getting to ‘the fun part’ For over sixty minutes, we have to endure clunky lines such as ‘Fuck those guys, you know? Fuck them!” as well as completely unconvincing behaviour, such as Eddie Furlong’s character who surrenders to Baxford his entire life savings and tells him not to worry about ever paying him back. What’s worse is that Purcell’s constant expression is one of utter befuddlement as if he’s at a loss on how to conduct himself, his voice barely ever rising above a mumble even though his life’s falling apart. Being able to tell that someone is acting is off-putting, but it’s downright distancing when the lead guy is making it clear that he’s struggling to act at all.
The cross-cutting involved during the main catalyst for the shootout – Baxford’s wife’s suicide – gives the film its sole boost of feeling, yet it immediately flounders once again thanks to Boll’s hopeless sense of rhythm and dynamics. Assault on Wall Street‘s greatest achievement is that it’s watchable in the same way as the American TV dramas that populate Channel 5 on a Sunday afternoon. But if you’re looking for something with an acceptable set of morals, better luck elsewhere. While I was reading up on this movie, I came across a page listing reasons you should watch it as supported by comments from Netflix, of all places. The first three convey the preferred, idiotic target audience for such a display of trashy ideals:
- “5 stars—this is what NEEDS to happen to the Wall St crooks who are still enjoying the high life.”
- “Now this was awesome and I encourage the same thing all over the world!!!”
- “I wish the killing scenes were longer and more graphic.”
For a brief moment during the climax, Assault attempts to redeem itself through the “don’t hate the player, hate the game” mantra, which would have made more sense than the untarnished glamour the film resolves to lay over the notion of vigilance. But these commentators, if you can call them that, are an extension of why this movie is worrying. Unless you’ve been living in a cave with a shotgun hung on the wall and are only now experiencing society for the first time, murder is unjustifiable in every circumstance (although as Brendan Gleeson remarks in Calvary, “self-defense is a tricky one, alright”) and, while the fourth comment on the list – “This may not be an Oscar winner, but for those who got shafted by the Banksters and their Gubmint lackeys, it’s an Oscar in its own right.” – attests to how it may provide a certain satisfaction for those of whom the recession hit the hardest, it still grates that such a mode of revenge is purported, and proclaimed, as ‘good.’
What’s more, Baxford’s values are completely nonsensical, given that his decisions regarding who to kill and who to spare lack any sort of logical correlation. For instance, he randomly hesitates long enough for one guy to tell him he has a family, and so Baxford lets him live; he then storms the adjoining office and kills everyone in his sight. Do these people not have families? Are they not sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers too? How does he know, and why doesn’t he care? Oh well, it doesn’t matter, let’s just watch all the cool and awesome as fuck gunplay fuck yeahhhh fuck bankers and fuck anyone who says different !!!
It is just a movie, after all, and maybe I shouldn’t be too aggravated by its politics given that, by the sounds of it, barely anyone’s even seen it. However, it was made by the guy who challenges critics to boxing matches when they give him bad reviews (let’s hope he doesn’t see this one) so everything I’ve said so far shouldn’t appear too surprising. It just seems that Boll has merely attempted to create a topical genre picture, despite the fact that he doesn’t seem to realise that you need to add stuff to the template so that it’s actually a movie and not, you know, an example of a genre template. Even taking into consideration the people who would love to see the everyman taking violent revenge on the folks on Wall Street – some people did lose everything as a result of the recession – this movie is sure to be a disappointment if you’re expecting anything more than a bland picture full of turgid dialogue, repetitive shots and disastrous logic. Otherwise, be my guest; it’ll be in a bargain bin in your nearest Tesco any time soon.
Assault on Wall Street was written and directed by Uwe Boll and stars Dominic Purcell, Erin Karpluk, Edward Furlong, John Heard, Keith David and Michael Paré. It goes on for 99 minutes and is a production of Lynn Peak productions. Distributed in the UK by Metrodome.