Assault 2

By Sebastian Clare.

To cinephiles and avid video-gamers alike, the name ‘Uwe Boll’ is synonymous with the very worst of what today’s film industry has to offer. Whether for repeatedly adapting successful game franchises such as House of the Dead, BloodRayne and Alone in the Dark into atrocious big-screen flops, or for a toe-curling foray into historical drama with Max Schmeling (2010) and Auschwitz (2011), it is not an exaggeration to say that the filmmaker has established an unenviable reputation as a third-rate hack of no particular talent, instinct or vision. He represents how not to make movies; if you see this man’s output and do not think that you can do better, then maybe you should avoid a career in this profession.

Assault 3It is therefore not merely surprising but breathtaking, mindblowing, jawdropping, that Uwe Boll has managed to conjure up something as watchable as Assault on Wall Street – a revenge flick with a difference. Witness the sudden implosion of the world of former soldier Jim (played with stony, sullen intensity by Dominic Purcell), as the crash of 2008 reaches its climax. Within a relatively short period of time, the insurance coverage for his wife’s cancer treatment reaches its limit, he discovers via his broker that his entire life savings have been wiped out, his house is foreclosed, and he loses his job as a security van driver. The phrase ‘a man with nothing left to lose’ is a cliché, but here we see its most literal form.

All of this is beautifully-shot and steadily-paced; roughly the first half of the film is devoted to the collapse of the protagonist’s life, while the second sees the development and execution of his plan to wreak a terrible vengeance on those responsible. Between Jim’s desperate attempts to keep his head afloat financially and his wife’s worsening condition, the sense of rising tension is almost unbearable, but brilliantly created. Little vignettes such as the hero’s one-on-one conversations with his stockbroker and then his lawyer, give a colourful illustration of the real economic devastation caused by the money markets. By the time he resolves to, essentially, commit mass murder, our empathy is so complete that the subsequent slayings make for considerably more uncomfortable viewing than if the build-up had been more brief or less emotionally intense.

Assault 1Though set in New York, the movie – like so many others – is primarily shot in Vancouver, but with liberal sprinklings of ‘Big Apple’ second unit shots. This is effective, and surprisingly subtle given Boll’s prior work. The score by Jessica de Rooij is in turns ethereal and ominous, adding to the doom-laden atmosphere that surrounds the proceedings. Added to the pitch-perfect performances by the cast – especially Purcell, and John Heard as the primary antagonist – and the competent direction, it all makes for an impressive final cut.

Given its themes of capitalist corruption and free market malpractice – at one point Edward Furlong’s Sean resignedly tells Jim, “The system’s rigged man, you know that” – Assault on Wall Street is a pretty brave film, from an auteur who has never before given any hint of being interested in such matters. With echoes of Falling Down (1993), God Bless America (2012), and He Was A Quiet Man (2007), this is the latest in a long line of ‘Man is pushed too far, snaps and goes on a killing spree’ kind of films, but it is all the more poignant and powerful for using as its central backdrop the economic crash, and for peppering its scenes with snippets of TV pundits describing the disparities of wealth and justice. Such a socio-economic commentary elevates this above standard revenge-flick fare, and makes Assault on Wall Street a must-see for anyone who might, occasionally, in their darkest moments, fantasize about stock-market traders getting some comeuppance.

Sebastian Clare has a Masters Degree from University College Dublin, and is a freelance writer and broadcaster.

5 thoughts on “Assault on Wall Street (2013)”

  1. Uwe Boll making a good film??? You may be right, but I seriously doubt it. This one is a jaw dropper, if true. I’ll have to see it to believe it — you’ll have to excuse me! This is really, really hard to believe.

  2. Indeed, Uwe Boll putting out something worth watching is difficult to fathom…but regardless of all that, one finds it almost laughable to consider a film with “themes of capitalist corruption and free market malpractice,” to be brave. Hollywood has, ironically enough, practically always been dominated by anti-capitalist cinema; it’s nothing remotely fresh or groundbreaking. If anything, it’s passe to the point of absurdity.

  3. Should have said “passed the point of absurdity.” Being anti-capitalist in Hollywood is hardly passe; it’s still the norm, as it always has been.

  4. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Uwe Boll’s “Rampage,” which sounds similar to Assault on Wall Street (which I have not seen). I was surprised watching Rampage because it was a competent piece of work from an otherwise worthless director. Its kind of a chilling film, with echoes of A Clockwork Orange and the Columbine shootings extrapolated to a small town. I’ll have to take a look at Assault on Wall Street now!

  5. Jack, I haven’t yet had the pleasure of watching Rampage yet, though it has been on my Watchlist for some time for the reasons you mentioned – I had read positive reviews and, given the director, could scarcely believe them. I must get around to watching it because, as you say, it seems to be almost a companion piece to this more-recent work.

    Steven Gibbs, you may be right. I can’t claim to be an expert on the history of American cinema. There are certainly always examples here and there of anti-capitalist productions. However, in my experience of the last decade or two, the output of movies critical of the economic system and its affects on the ‘ordinary worker’ have been shockingly lacking – particularly given the global recession and all that goes with it. Maybe I’ve just missed the films that were embracing these themes, and their becoming passé as a result, but I can only give my honest response to what I see. Appreciate the input nonetheless.

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