In the small town of Paradise, the Dude (Zack Ward) is out of work again. As the sun rises and he dresses for an interview at the Gluttco Corporation, it ought to be a good day. Maybe even the first day of the rest of his life. But in the bedroom of his trailer, his obese wife is barking out orders. Outside, his dog has shit in the yard again while his redneck neighbour is threatening to put in a complaint on account of the racket that he and his wife make during their afternoon bouts of sex. "For your information hillbilly...I wasn't even here yesterday afternoon!" His neighbour cracks a toothless and slack-jawed smile. The day has started very badly.
Meanwhile, after the attacks of 11th September, which were almost averted after the hijackers learned that the hundred virgins they had been promised for all of eternity has been reduced to twenty (until the hijackees stormed the cockpit), Osama bin Laden is hiding out in a convenience store in Paradise. Therein, within a set dressed to look like an Afghan cave, he continues to record video messages to the faithful. But changes are afoot. bin Laden himself is tired of the Infidel-baiting scripts that he's forced to read while his troops are tired of dying. They want a new way to bring down the western devil and it's contained within a shipment of 2,000 cock-and-ball-shaped Crotchy Dolls that were rescued off a ship that sunk en route to America. Uncle Dave (Dave Foley) is also after those dolls. Selling for four thousand bucks apiece online, he sees them as a way of paying off the million-dollar tax demand on his D.O.O.M. Apocalypse Survival Centre. As the Nazis encamped in Little Germany prepare to sell the dolls to add to their treasure chest of World War 2 gold, the Taliban and the Doomsday cult shoot it out for the Crotchy Dolls. And Postal Guy, in the middle of the firefight, is having a hell of a day.
The phrase 'going postal' originated following a series of killings by United States Postal Service employees, almost always of their managers and co-workers but also including members of the public. Over forty people were murdered in twenty incidents of postal workers becoming angry to the point of violence and, not long after, the phrase entered the language to describe anyone so helplessly angry with their lot in life that, armed and very dangerous, they go a-hunting. Postal is Uwe Boll, well, going postal. It would seem that after being the movie world's whipping boy for almost as many years as he's been in business, Boll has had enough. In a burst of fury, he's looked back over the last decade and selected any and every bit of pop culture, instrument of social change and news event and thrown it back at his audience. Instead of his saying, "I'm mad as hell...and I'm not gonna take it any more!", he's gone for a shipment of Tickle-Me-Elmo-inspired Crotchy Dolls, of Islamist terrorists blowing up a street corner preacher with a belt bomb, of George W Bush greeting Osama bin Laden with, "Osama, you old fucker! It's G.W.!" and of Zack Ward standing on the head of a quadriplegic to aid his shimmying over a fence.
Anyone else might have focused his fury better, not unlike the standup Bill Hicks did, into something that was both funny and pointed. Similarly, while some have compared this to Team America: World Police, it has less of that film's moments of silliness, such as the unleashing of the killer blank panthers. What matters in Postal is the straightforward anger of the film, which Boll frames as insults. It's a film in which nothing is taboo, be it celebrity life, terrorism or even Uwe Boll himself. Verne Troyer shows up to spear the hiring of truculent movie stars for theme park appearances and ends up the victim of a doomsday cult whose bible has a prophecy of a tiny entertainer who will be raped by a thousand monkeys. Cue the monkeys and cue Verne Troyer looking very uncomfortable. Cat-lovers will wince when Postal Dude sticks his gun up a cat's ass to use it as a silencer while Dave Foley sets out to offend anyone of faith with his apocalypse cult, even to his using his followers to distract the guards of Little Germany. "Get in there and give those boys a God-job!"
It's in Little Germany that Postal gets truly eye-wateringly offensive. And yet offers the film's funniest scenes. It comes at the point when you think the film's situations couldn't go any further into the gutter but then Uwe Boll appears on stage dressed in Lederhosen and saying that the Doctor Mengele First Aid Station (amongst other attractions in this playground) is the means to dispose of his family's hoard of Nazi gold, which he does by paying Verne Troyer in gold teeth extracted from the victims of the Holocaust. Boll looks out over the crowd and says, "I get a little horny here on stage sometimes...if I see the crowd and all them children..." It gets even more surreal when Vince Desi, developer of the original Postal videogame and dressed as a Crotchy Doll, pulls off his glans-penis-shaped head and asks Boll, "What the fuck you do to my videogame Postal?" "I don't know what your fucking problem is...the movie's great!" And just in case anyone with a shred of morality might still be watching, Boll then leads the film into its second shootout, in which all of the casualties are either children or paraplegics. One is inclined to agree with a character in the film who asks of Boll, "Are you fucking kidding me?"
The risk in Boll doing all of this is that it will only add to his notoriety while finding that few will care enough to look beyond the headlines to actually watch the film. Like Paul WS Anderson or Ed Wood, everyone steals a glance at the release of his movie and, believing it to be shit, turns quickly away. That's not always fair on Wood, not fair on Anderson and in the case of Postal, not fair on Boll. Understandably at a low ebb in life, Boll hasn't so much turned to black humour as hugely offensive humour. But it's laugh-out-loud funny at times, if only for the sheer surprise at seeing what Boll thinks worthy of putting on the screen. It helps a lot, of course, if you can consider a film in which Boll make jokes about the September 11 attacks, religious cults, the handicapped, the sexual abuse of children and the Holocaust and not blanche at the mere thought of it. But this viewer found it refreshing to see a film director go for broke, to insult quite so many people and to simply not care about the consequences. It's not an outright success, it's structure being too loose to nail urban madness but not only is it is best videogame adaptation to date, its also a film whose cult success ought to be assured.
In spite of his problems with special effects - see Bloodrayne for a perfect example of how not to stage the killing of a monk - whatever else you might say about a Uwe Boll film, he can usually shoot a movie. His medieval films, including Bloodrayne and In The Name of the King, were high on atmosphere and generally looked the part. Postal is very far from the lighted braziers or monster-filled homes of Boll's earlier films. Set in the southern sunlit town of Paradise, the film is sourced from a very clean print. The film is saturated in bright colours and, for the most part, looks very good. The trailer park scenes, either that which opens the film or that of one of the later shootouts, are the obvious highlights but any scene where Boll lets the colours shine come up a treat on this DVD. Boll's use of effects are also much better in Postal than they have been previously. Having watching disinterested extras hack at the blood'n'guts in Bloodrayne, everything is much better this time around with even the victims of Postal Dude's shooting looking as though they're enjoying things. Only the cat-silencer looks really fake but that's deliberate.
The problem with the DVD is that it would seem, according to the IMDb and DVD reviews of the Region 1 release of Postal, that where Boll's film was made with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, we get a 1.78:1 framing of the movie. Postal might well be a straight-to-DVD feature in this country - it was classified for the first and only time by the BBFC on 4 September 2008 - so it's probably fair to assume that rather than keep the film's theatrical ratio, it was made narrower so to avoid black bars on television sets. Some of the scenes, particularly the shootouts, do look very cramped while the overall impression is that there's a much better-looking film in this. So what could have been a good DVD is let down by unnecessary cropping. Similarly, there's no Dolby Digital 5.1. Instead, we get a DD2.0 surround mix but it's not up to much. There's barely any use of the rear channels, which serves to keep the audio split across the front speakers. It could have gotten by with a stereo track but at least it does well by the dialogue and music, both of which are clear throughout. The shootouts are particularly good and the finale, set to the sound of a charming little song that plays out over nuclear explosions, is just lovely. However, there are no subtitles.
We don't get the sight of Boll boxing some of his critics on his DVD in the knockdowns that he would bill the Manoeuvres in Vancouver. Nor do we get the free copy of the full version of Postal 2: Share the Pain. And nor do we get Verne Troyer's challenge to Indiana Jones. What we actually get is a Behind The Scenes featurette (9m11s) with Boll on the set of Little Germany, telling a woman who shouts out that her grandfather died in Auschwitz, "My grandfather also died in Auschwitz. He fell from a watchtower!". It's not right to laugh...but I did.
The best extra on the set is a Commentary from Boll, which he bills as accompanying, "...the best movie ever made." Boll talks about his financing of the film, how the failure of Bloodrayne drove him to shoot Postal and Seed back-to-back and how the man who made a film based on Dungeon Siege came to make a movie in which Dave Foley, once a cute little comedian on Newsradio and star of Disney's Sky High, wanders about naked. Although his taking of telephone calls in the commentary annoys, Boll is frank when discussing his films, the mood that he found himself in when writing this and how his (naive) politics informed Postal. This comes across best in his talking about emailing Madonna and Charlize Theron, who were vocal on the issue, about his making a film on the genocide in Sudan. He seems genuinely surprised that not one of these celebrities answered his call. For that alone, that endless optimism, I like Uwe Boll. Finally, there is a Trailer (1m31s).