Postal (2007) (part 1 of 2)
Welcome to the sixth installment of Razzie Contenders: 2009 Edition! In this special series of mini-recaps, the Agony Booth staff takes a long, unflinching look at the awful movies that got nominated (or should have been nominated) for Razzie Awards in 2009!
Check out the other recaps in this series: The Love Guru by Ed Harris, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale by Ryan Lohner, 10,000 B.C. by Jessica Ritchey, The Hottie & the Nottie by Albert, The Day the Earth Stood Still by Mark “Scooter” Wilson!
Teutonic auteur Dr. Uwe Boll is back again with his latest—and perhaps greatest—masterpiece, Postal. Boll, well known for his blockbuster, masterstroke adaptations of literary classics, visits that genre once again with Postal, which is, of course, adapted from Jonathan Swift’s famous satiric novel of the same name.
In the past, Dr. Boll has been accused—falsely, to these ears—of being rather too slavish in his adaptations, and following his sources too closely. Well, critics, take heed! Postal fully captures (and dare I say, improves upon) the spirit and wit of Swift’s original, while at the same time successfully moving the action to modern times. It’s gratifying, even heartwarming, to see a filmmaker such as Dr. Boll grow into his art. Dr. Boll’s earlier works like House of the Dead set the bar high; Postal shows that Boll still knows how to raise it even higher with each successive cinematic triumph.
I’m sure we all remember seeing Postal in the theaters, don’t we? We were laughing, we were crying, but most of all, we were thinking. I stood for hours waiting for my turn to experience this film, and I can still recall the almost inconceivable level of anticipation in the blocks-long line. It was a thing of wonder. Even better was the group of filmgoers that gathered outside the theater afterwards, red-eyed and spent, but better for the hour and fifty minutes spent with Dr. Boll’s vision. The group I was with didn’t talk after the film. We hugged.
If you’re one of the few people on the planet who hasn’t seen Postal, fear not. I shall not spoil the best parts for you. You need, you deserve to see Postal for yourself. Make sure you see it with your friends, your co-workers, and especially, your children.
The other reason for the relative brevity of this recap is that this humble recapper, despite multiple viewings, is still busy unpacking the dense, wonderfully complex narrative, and deciphering the film’s rich symbolism. I’ll say it again: You need to see Postal. Be warned, however, that Postal will challenge you. I know it challenged me.
Postal opens with the destruction of one of the World Trade Center towers on September 11th, 2001. The scene is from the point of view of the hijacking pilots, as they bicker over exactly how many virgins they’ll each receive in the afterlife.
Once the plane slams into the building, the flames form the backdrop for the opening titles. Dr. Boll has clearly tapped into the nascent anti-9/11 backlash that’s currently bubbling up in the United States. Be honest: Who hasn’t felt that it was time that we Yanks just got over it and started to laugh about 9/11? It is time, and Dr. Boll knows it. Often, it takes an outsider to help a nation recognize the humor in certain events. Those people of a certain demographic may recall how Kissinger helped the Vietnamese learn to laugh about My Lai.
Once the flames subside, the scene shifts to the lovely environs of the Paradise Winds Trailer Park, in Paradise City, Arizona. Don’t bother with any Guns N’ Roses jokes, however, because Dr. Boll has beaten you to the punch. The caption that reveals the name of Paradise City also identifies it as the birthplace of Axl Rose. I learn so many new things from Uwe Boll films.
Inside one of the trailers, our everyman hero is dressing up for a job interview. Just as in Swift’s novel, the hero represents us all, in our never-ending struggle to find meaning in life. In another nod to the source material, the hero is never named. He is—we are all—simply “the postal dude”, or sometimes just “the dude”. His smokin’ hot wife is credited as “the bitch”, but I prefer to refer to her by her full, Swiftian name: “postal dude’s bitch.”
A word here about the extraordinary casting. Unlike, say, Alone in the Dark, where Boll was lucky enough to cast the somewhat overly-intellectual, but amazingly accomplished Tara Reid, the cast of Postal is mostly made up of relative unknowns. Zack Ward (the dude) is an exception, of course—you all certainly remember him from BloodRayne 2: Deliverance, as well as Battle Planet—but Jodie Stewart (the dude’s bitch) has no other credits to her name. Stay in the game, Jodie! The massive exposure you earned from Postal is sure to lead to bigger and better roles!
As the dude makes his way to his interview, we’re introduced to another group of major players in the labyrinthine plot of Postal. Specifically, there’s a Taliban cell in Paradise City, cunningly hidden in the back room of a convenience store. Inside, turban-clad terrorists play pool and poker while listening to rap music. Mohammed, second-in-command for the cell, alludes to “the shipment” having just left Afghanistan.
Marvel at Boll’s novel scriptwriting here, won’t you? This humble recapper has never seen a film so ably mock this fact of life: Many convenience stores are owned by people of Middle Eastern or Indian descent! Such originality calls to mind the classic wit of Mr. Henny Youngman. Did you know that Henny never told the same joke twice?
The dude arrives at a corporate office for his interview, but alas, it does not go well. The final straw seems to be when he cannot answer the question, “What is the difference between a duck?” That’s the entirety of the question, but the dude, unable to see this majestic koan for what it is, loses his temper, and fires off some profanities at the interviewer.
Impressed by his verve, the interviewer adds the dude to the callback list, and then has the dude sing the company fight song.
The dude isn’t totally fulfilled by this outcome, however. But before we have further opportunity to sympathize with his blue-collar plight, Dr. Boll introduces us to the characters who are the final pieces in the grand chess game that is Postal.
The scene shifts to the compound of the Denomination of Organic Monotheism, a mainstream religious organization led by the dude’s uncle, Dave. Uncle Dave is played by Dave Foley, best known as Laslow Oswald from 2002’s “High-Tech House of Horrors” episode of What’s New, Scooby-Doo? Further in-depth research on IMDb reveals that Mr. Foley did other TV shows as well, albeit nothing anyone has ever heard of. This fits in well with Dr. Boll’s scheme of casting virtual unknowns. For instance, almost no one has seen The Kids in the Hall or NewsRadio; I’m fairly confident that neither series lasted beyond the pilot episode, due in no small part to those episodes not being directed by Uwe Boll.
After Uncle Dave warms up his faithful denomination in a manner reminiscent of the Pope on Easter Sunday, we catch up with him relaxing in his bedroom. The first time I saw Postal at the multiplex, I was again struck by Dr. Boll’s insightful humor. Seriously, Boll should patent this material; it’s that fresh. Here, it turns out that the outwardly pious Uncle Dave is secretly a foul-mouthed, womanizing, pot-smoking lout. Who could have seen that coming?
Enter Uncle Dave’s assistant, Richard (played by Chris Coppola, who also voiced the unforgettable role of “Toothless Boy” in The Polar Express). While we’re treated to yet more innovative humor—a minute-long fart and poop joke while Uncle Dave sits on the toilet—Richard lets Uncle Dave know that the IRS is threatening to shut down the congregation, due to 1.3 million dollars owed in back taxes.
In the meantime, two police officers, John and Greg, come upon an elderly woman in her car. She seems to be having problems, because she continues to sit there when the light turns green. So, Officer Greg hops out of his patrol car and blows her away with his shotgun. If you missed Postal in the theaters, you missed the rousing applause that almost always accompanied this scene. A moment like this may never come again.
After getting lattes from a cute barista named Faith (Jackie Tohn), the dude visits his Uncle Dave. They drink, swear, and smoke some joints. Uncle Dave tries to recruit the dude into a moneymaking scheme, but the dude’s moral compass won’t allow it.
The dude leaves to go to the welfare office to pick up his check. It turns out that the civil servants at the office aren’t very helpful—there’s another sure-fire patent, Dr. Boll!—so a gunfight breaks out. Security guards and civilians alike all draw handguns, and many die in the flurry of bullets. And yet, the dude is more interested in getting to the front of the welfare line. Before he can get his check, however, the icy office staffers close up for the day.
Dejected, the dude heads home to his trailer to find solace in the arms of his beautiful bride.
The steel has not yet been fully tempered, however; When the dude arrives back at his trailer, he finds his wife in bed with the neighbor. The dude exchanges pleasantries with his neighbor, and then leaves to dejectedly wander the streets of Paradise City. This insight into the soul of America is keen, is it not? Who among us hasn’t been out of work and flat broke, only to find the neighbor in the kitchen with a penis pump?
Out on the streets, the dude accidentally kills a would-be mugger, and now he’s finally ready to tackle the rest of this movie’s ingenious plot. He calls his Uncle Dave and volunteers to help him with his moneymaking scheme.
Of course, you all recall the literary MacGuffin from Swift’s original novel, which was the “Crotche Doll”, a ceramic-headed rag doll fashioned in the shape of male genitalia. In Dr. Boll’s updating of Postal for our times, it’s called a “Krotchy Doll”, and it is now a fully stuffed toy, also fashioned in the shape of male genitalia. Boll’s modern version is a vast improvement over the 18th Century original, due to the inclusion of a pull string which makes the doll talk.
For instance, later in the film, someone pulls the string and the doll says, “Only my father or my priest can touch me there.” Imagine your young son or daughter gleefully clutching a stuffed scrotum to his or her face and hearing these words! Parents of the new millennium will be just as pleased as their counterparts in merry old England, no doubt.
The MacGuffin-ing of the Krotchy Dolls involves a shipment of the toys from China. Turns out the dolls are filled with flasks of avian flu virus, and the Taliban, under the direction of Osama bin Laden (Larry Thomas, who once played a thoroughly unremarkable character named the “Soup Nazi”), plan to use the dolls to bring death to America.
Bin Laden and Mohammed, hereafter referred to as “Sammy” and “Mo”, both in the film and in this recap, discuss the plot together in the back of the convenience store. And one may wonder how Sammy, the world’s most wanted terrorist, was able to smuggle himself into the United States; One may also wonder why, exactly, he would do this. However, the genius of Boll’s script is that his message exists high above such petty trivialities as common sense.
Once the MacGuffin-ing of the Krotchy Dolls is in progress, Sammy goes off to watch Oprah.