Too little way too late, Uwe Boll’s supposedly Occupy-thumping Assault on Wall Street manages even less ideas-wise than Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, a film whose “subtext” was apparently grafted onto its script as cameras rolled minutes from Zuccotti Park in late 2011. Boll’s cautionary tale about bad loans and the little people squashed by them is, unfortunately, less the shit-eating disasterpiece many anticipated than it is a garden-variety bummer, shorn of the nihilism and outsized majesty that made Boll relatively famous with films like House of the Dead. The director doesn’t just rein himself in; playing Assault on Wall Street absolutely straight—which is, for him, more than a little bit of a gamble—makes for a deadening product.
Dominic Purcell stumbles from scene to scene as Jim, a rock-headed security guard whose faith in the system spirals out of control when his wife, Rosie (Erin Karpluk), is diagnosed with a rare disease requiring $300-a-shot hormone treatments and a swarming cocktail of medicines. Stretched thin, but still keeping it together, Jim puts the tab on his credit cards, in good faith that his investment with a portfolio manager will reap enough cash to pay it back. It doesn’t, as the investment firm is investigated and Jim’s broker insists that he’s just “the player here, not the whole game.” Boll’s ensuing long take tells you a little bit about what the director was going for. The camera, punched in for a side-profile shot, zigzags from a questioning Jim on the left to the broker on the right. As he grows more impatient with the broker’s lack of specific answers, Jim’s resolve crumbles when the broker offers the (costly) option of a lawsuit. Boll cuts only after Jim sighs, “I just want my money back.” The timing of the pans is off and the frame isn’t exactly Tarkovskian, but this simple diagrammatic volley will resonate with anyone who watched any pointed questions about the 2008 economic collapse get buried under an avalanche of evasive buzzwords and legalese from lawmakers and money-men.
Hopeless, Rosie commits suicide, and Jim begins plotting revenge on “the fuckin’ banks” responsible, piecing a map of his enemies together from puff pieces in magazines like Fortune. As a snarly fat-cat banker, John Heard joins a Peckinpah-worthy cast of side-stringers given weird plot importance by virtue of their appearance: Clint Howard as an arms dealer, Keith David as a wisecracking cop, Eric Roberts as a legal counselor, and Edward Furlong as Jim’s best friend. By movie’s end, Jim has a gun pointed at Heard’s Stancroft, who aligns his own lawlessness with that of the Vanderbilts, the Carnegies, and the Hearsts. His desperate spit-monologue becomes a grotesque encapsulation for the American economy, and it makes Ned Beatty’s speech in Network sound like Rumi poetry. But even with five minutes of movie left, the goofiest is still yet to come—and Boll’s insistence on plugging genre tropes into his imagined idea of populism returns us to the same cynical place as Postal, except with none of the sizzle.