Most filmmakers would kill for a shot at fame. Uwe Boll is famous for being killed… by critics.
Between 1992 and 2016, the German director released 32 films, none of them good. He’s the driving force behind ill-conceived schlock such as Postal, BloodRayne: The Third Reich, and Blubberella – I would believe anyone who told me Boll’s filmography holds a Rotten Tomatoes (RT) score in the negatives.
Regardless of how you feel about Boll’s films, his career is ripe for the documentary treatment. Fortunately for viewers, director Sean Patrick Shaul is up for tackling a fascinating (and challenging) subject like Boll. His film, F*** You All: The Uwe Boll Story, offers an honest and engaging look at the man dubbed the modern-day Ed Wood.
Before attaining internet infamy, Boll’s origin story is like most other filmmakers. Boll grew up in Germany, loving film, and went to the cinema to watch classics like Doctor Zhivago and Spartacus. As a teen, he began shooting footage on handheld cameras, which inspired him to make the jump to independent film.
Boll didn’t find his niche until his 2003 horror flick House of the Dead. House of the Dead, which holds an anemic 3% rotten rating on RT, is based on a video game. The film earned back its budget but wasn’t a success. But Boll kept working, and his next picture, Alone in the Dark (currently 1% on RT), was also based on a video game.
You would think that a few critical and commercial failures would slow down a filmmaker’s career. But Boll doubled down on producing lousy video game adaptations. His next movie, BloodRayne, which had a budget of $25,000,000, earned only $3,650,275 at the global box office (and 4% rotten on RT). See a pattern here? It’s like the failures made Boll stronger.
Naturally, moviegoers took to the internet to voice their frustration. As if being the target of moviegoers’ rage wasn’t enough, Boll also pissed off gamers by shitting all over their beloved gaming franchises. This is where Boll’s sullied legacy leaps to another level. Boll, with his prickly personality, isn’t well-equipped to deal with criticism. When people come at Boll, he fires right back. The frustrated director challenged film critics to boxing matches and is quick to shit-talk blockbuster films, movie stars, and the Hollywood system.
Shaul tracks down compelling interview subjects who are experts on all things Boll; actors, producers, and critics, and spends a chunk of the doc with Boll himself. The subjects aren’t brutally honest – you can see most of them being diplomatic about how they describe Boll’s filmmaking ability – but they don’t hold back either. The movie does an excellent job painting a picture of a driven artist with a skill at getting a job done by any means necessary.
Boll has such a larger than life personality that he alone could support a feature-length doc. His time on screen is the most intriguing thing about the movie. It takes off-the-charts confidence or delusion to pull off a career like Boll’s. How many times can someone fail at something before stepping away? Boll is undeterred by criticism, this much is obvious. But something else comes through loud and clear: he believes he has a gift.
That’s right, the man thinks he’s out there pushing creative boundaries and moving the artistic needle. Listening to him speak, I couldn’t decide if he is full of himself or playing a role. Regardless of how you feel about his movies, you have to respect his hustle. And one can’t help but wonder if his bluster and active trolling is a persona. In the world of entertainment, it’s better to be hated than ignored.
After watching the doc, I believe that Boll is full of himself. He comes across as too egotistical to accept the sort of criticism that helps filmmakers grow as artists. Being a terrible filmmaker earned him a legacy but hurt his artistic growth. A film doesn’t have to be great to be entertaining. But his movies are neither, and you don’t see any type of growth from film to film. I’m saying this as someone who often enjoys movies that aren’t even good.
I meet a lot of writers who hate the process of writing but love the feeling after they have written. I get this sense about Boll and his approach to making movies. He wants to make films but doesn’t give himself over to the artistry of medium. He barrels through production like a bull in a China shop, which is what you have to do when you’re working on tight deadlines with limited budgets. As his filmography attests, he’s too focused on wrapping up and moving on to the next project. He’s a filmmaker who pours blood, sweat, and government funding into his movies but stops short of tears.
We celebrate campy movies because we can see the love that went into them. A film like Dolemite may be poorly made, but we experience Rudy Ray Moore’s scorching passion radiating through every scene. Dolemite is campy because it aimed for greatness and fell short, and we appreciate the intention. Boll’s movies don’t reach camp territory because as viewers, we don’t feel the love. His soulless screenplays, actors, and filmmaking style all come off as cliché, mechanical, and rote.
Shaul’s film does a solid job explaining the Boll phenomenon to the uninitiated. It offers an informative and to-the-point examination of one of the internet’s most reviled figures. If you’re a Boll hater, this doc sheds light on his filmmaking process but won’t change your opinion of the man. F*** You All: The Uwe Boll Story offers an insightful look at a driven filmmaker, and explores what it means to be a “successful” working artist when no one admires your art.