||If it’s January, it must be Uwe Boll. The post-Christmas slump is the period for disposing of cinematic dogs, and few movie mutts are mangier than those made by the man recognized as the modern-day Ed Wood, though blessed—remarkably enough—with larger budgets and starrier casts. The master’s latest video-game adaptation is “In the Name of the King,” which, unsurprisingly, has sneaked into theatres without benefit of press screenings on its quick descent onto the DVD shelves. It easily lives down to what genre fans have come to recognize as the Boll standard.
Based on a game called Dungeon Siege, the tale, set in a quasi-medieval era of sorcery and mayhem, pits heroic Farmer (Jason Statham—and yep, that’s what he calls himself) against the evil wizard Gallian (Ray Liotta), who’s in league with malevolent Duke Fallow (Matthew Lillard) to dispose of the benevolent King Konreid (Burt Reynolds!). Turning his plowshares into swords after Gallian’s army of robotic Krugs kills his little son Zeph (Colin Ford) and kidnaps his wife Solana (Claire Forlani), Farmer, aided by his grizzled adoptive father Norick (Ron Perlman) and his brother-in-law Bastian (Will Sanderson) takes off to avenge his boy and reunite with his bride, eventually throwing in with King Konreid, the monarch’s chief advisor Merick (John Rhys-Davies), Merick’s daughter Muriella (Leelee Sobieski) and the king’s commander Tarish (Brian White), as well as a reclusive forest tribe led by vine-swinging Elora (Kristanna Loken). After a not-so-big surprise concerning his real parentage, Farmer eventually triumphs—in a conclusion that’s even less of a surprise.
This story isn’t inherently any more goofy than that of “The Lord of the Rings,” but as done up by the indefatigable Boll, with bargain-basement CGI effects, drab cinematography from Mathias Neumann, dialogue replete with howlers contributed by Doug Taylor (a particular debit when it’s dragged out to an unconscionably epic length of more than two hours), inept editing (especially in the too-close-in battle scenes) by Paul Klassen and David M. Richardson, and an oppressively loud, crude score by Jessica de Rooij and Henning Lohner, “In the Name of the King” is far more reminiscent of Courtney Solomon’s ludicrous “Dungeons & Dragons” (2000) than Peter Jackson’s trilogy.
Statham throws himself into hero mode with apparent relish (at least for a paycheck), but his energy is nothing compared to Liotta, who not only chews up the scenery but swallows it whole: the performance puts his animated manic turn in “Bee Movie” to shame. All the others appear to be sleep-walking through their parts—Reynolds to unintentionally hilarious effect—except for Lillard, who’s his usual wild-eyed self as the duplicitous duke. His abrupt disappearance from the film suggests, though, that he didn’t stay around for the wrap party. It may be noted, though, that in the second half of the picture Sobieski gets to strut around in what’s apparently Milla Jovovich’s leftover armor from “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.”
Maybe some fans of Dungeon Siege will appreciate Uwe Boll’s stab at bringing it to life on the screen. But most will probably find “In the Name of the King” a Frankenstein’s monster of a movie, cobbled together from bits and pieces of the game and propelled by a defective brain with the initials UB. Though released by Freestyle, incidentally, “King” is a production of Boll’s own outfit—Boll KG, as it’s called—which in this instance must stand for Krap Gesellschaft. Verily, the movie sucketh.