Alone In The Dark 2 (2008)

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You will be pleased, but unsurprised, to find out that this is better than part 1. Being kicked in the head for 2 hours is a bit better than part 1, though, so we’re starting from a very low threshold. Uwe Boll is merely the producer this time, and the budget is substantially smaller – the only casting choices of note in this are Danny Trejo in an uncharacteristically subdued little role and Lance Henriksen as the mysterious expert on all things supernatural.

 

We have a slightly smaller scale than part 1, which is also welcome. The first twenty minutes or so are very curious, as we’re introduced to people who we’d expect to be stars of a Boll movie (Natassia Malthe, too good for this garbage; Jason Connery; and Zack Ward, who we’ll be meeting again in “Postal”), only to have them killed off, and then have people who seem completely unrelated to the central conflict suddenly know all about it and become the stars of the rest of the movie. There’s a choice between “this was heavily edited, so it makes no sense” and “this just makes no sense” and neither of them reflect well.

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After sort of inheriting top billing in this movie from Ward, we meet Edward Carnby. That was Christian Slater’s name in part 1, but here he’s an entirely different character, and played by Rick Yune, who you may remember from actually good movies like “The Fast And The Furious” and “Die Another Day”. What he’s doing slumming it in this movie is anyone’s guess. He’s taken in by another group of independent, “Supernatural” style occult investigators, who are trying to kill an immortal witch-spirit who…nah, her motivation is definitely a bit unclear.

 

In fact, everyone’s motivation is unclear in this. I don’t need a set of life stories, but at least some reason why these people have chosen to dedicate their lives to tracking down a ghost would be handy. It might also have been handy for a movie called “Alone In The Dark” to have the characters be alone, in the dark, for at least some of the movie. But that might just be me, picking fault. Your opinion may be different. Also, if I’d fired a thousand bullets at a smoke-figure and done no damage whatsoever, I’d probably give up on the shooting thing. Not these guys though!

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Okay, it’s not quite as aggressively bad as part 1, but it’s like they were trying to make it terrible! What have the filmmakers got against explaining anything to us? The witch is all ghostly and made up of smoke at one point, then later on she’s fully corporeal, with no reason given for how she went from one to the other. Why was the witch so fixated on this one group of people? Why not go after a random few people, as at the very least they won’t have all sorts of spells and potions to try and fight you off?

 

Actually, I’m not convinced this is better than part 1 now. I apologise for my somewhat slipshod review, readers, but this movie is tough to pin down. It feels like the final two episodes of some TV show we never got the chance to see.

 

I thought it would be funny to use pictures from  the game, sorry

I thought it would be funny to use pictures from the game, sorry

Honestly, it’s probably best to avoid both of these. Why anyone would want or pay for a sequel to one of the most universally reviled movies of the 21st century is beyond me, but is probably down to some obscure clause in a contract somewhere. Sorry, good actors and crew who worked on this movie! You deserved better.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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Alone In The Dark (2005)

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Our “Uwe Boll: The Computer Game Years” series continues with this, based on a game I’ve never played. I’m guessing there’s a lot of being alone, and in the dark, but other than that I’m stumped, and it would appear I’m not the only one, as there is a serious wall of words to ease us into things (“Star Wars” being the reigining, and only, champion of “good films with pages and pages of text right at the beginning”). But not just text – presumably relying on the stupider end of society going to see this movie, they read the text out at the same time!

We have Section 713, led by Stephen Dorff, kind of a supernatural FBI; they’re tracking down artifacts from the ancient Abkani race, because they can open a portal to a demon dimension. Also on the hunt for this stuff is a baddie Professor with a Yorkshire accent and his assistant Tara Reid; plus former agent Christian Slater.  Slater is also, it turns out, one of 20 orphan kids who the baddie Professor experimented on 22 years ago and turned into “sleeper agents” – now ancient magic is stirring and the sleepers are waking up, although exactly why is still frustratingly out of reach. For reasons completely unknown, the baddie Professor wants to open the portal and let all the dark creatures through, even though some of them have made it through already. None of this is ever explained to us.

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You are forgiven if you read that paragraph, shake your head and go “huh?” If I had to describe this movie in one word (which would make reviewing easier) I’d call it “chaotic”. If I had another two words, I’d go for “bloody horrible”. Let’s see if I can bring all the skills I’ve picked up over nearly 500 reviews to try and puzzle out the twists and turns of this movie!

Ye gods, this is difficult. Reading around, a lot of criticism comes from this being nothing like the games, but as I’ve never played them and know nothing about them then that doesn’t bother me (and shouldn’t bother you, either, 7 years after the last one). What should bother you and me is EVERYTHING ELSE. I’ve been pretty kind to Uwe Boll recently, but this is the absolute pits, a movie that justifiably sealed his reputation as one of the worst directors of all time.  Plot holes!!! How did the weird Alien-looking creatures make it to Earth when the portal was closed? How did Baddie Professor capture one, and then how did he figure out that injecting himself with its blood would turn him into an alien-controlling super-villain? If the Abkani were wiped out, why did they take such care to bury all their artefacts in far-flung locations? Why not just destroy them if they were that dangerous? Just in case they fancied popping back over to Hell Dimension in a few millennia? Why did the Nun, who seems like a nice lady, let Baddie Professor have 20 kids to experiment on?

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With too many people and groups, there’s no sense that any of them have any motivation for doing what they do. The 20 “sleepers” are just cannon fodder for the end of the movie, have no dialogue or reason to exist other than to bulk the movie out a bit. They’re virtually impossible to kill at the beginning but drop like flies at the end…it’s like a fractal image of badness. Every time you think you’ve got to the bottom of it all, new levels of suck-complexity continue to reveal themselves. NOTHING MAKES ANY SENSE

I’m sorry, readers. If the aim of reading these reviews is to decide whether to watch a movie or not, I hope I’ve already made my position clear, but I can’t stop thinking about how bad it is. The second half of the movie is set in a giant cave complex handily located underneath the orphanage where Baddie Professor found his test subjects, and it’s just people shooting and stuff blowing up and dark corridors and huge halls and absolutely no explanation for anything whatsoever. I couldn’t tell you the reason for any of its existence, or why Dorff and Slater have the sort of relationship we’ve not seen since Iceman and Maverick in “Top Gun”. Or why a song called “7 Seconds” is playing as Slater and Reid have sex, and if that’s a subtle joke or just a horrid coincidence. Or why someone decided to cast Christian Slater as a ripped tight-vest-wearing action hero. Or why all the bulletproof vests had an outline of pecs and a six-pack on it, even those worn by women. Or why the city was evacuated at the end, or by whom. Or if Dorff survived. Or how they know the portal was closed. Or why they bother to set up that the aliens are super-sensitive to light, only to have one attack our heroes in broad daylight at the end.

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To save my blood pressure, I’m done. This is right down at the bottom of all the movies we’ve done here, and I can’t see it being dislodged from its position of shame any time soon. This is one of the movies that makes me curse my life choices, as people gave Uwe Boll money to make this, and the last time I got money for nothing was when I found a pound coin down the side of my sofa.

Rating: thumbs down

In The Name Of The King 3: The Last Mission (2014)

Know what might have been fun? Wearing this armour in the movie

Know what might have been fun? Wearing this armour in the movie

The more you think about this movie, the more any meaning it might have slips away from you. It’s so…empty, like the shell of a movie they forgot to add anything to. I’ve got no idea who it was made for, or why; it’s not crazy like a lot of Uwe Boll’s other films, and his sense of humour really struggles to come through. For a fantasy movie, a good third of it is set in present-day Sofia, Bulgaria (the home of choice for low-budget US filmmaking for a good 15 years), too.

 

Dominic Purcell, stoic co-star of “Prison Break”, doesn’t exactly stretch his range by playing an emotionless assassin. Given the job of kidnapping a couple of children (their father is a politician or something) he does so, because he’s a badass, but then finds one of them wearing a medallion that matches a tattoo he has on his arm. BOOM! Just like part 2, he’s through a portal and into…medieval Bulgaria! But luckily, a version of Bulgaria with magic and dragons and so on. He meets two beautiful sisters who are also super-fighters and gets sucked into a rebellion against the evil Prince or King or whatever, who has the replacement medallion he’ll need to get home.

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In case you were wondering, none of this is remotely related to the events of the first two movies (which did have some continuity, after a fashion). Although the computer game that started this franchise is a distant memory, thinking of this movie like it’s a game is the only way to wrestle any meaning from it. Purcell keeps his future-clothes on the entire time he’s in the past, he cruises through both “levels” of the movie almost entirely unhurt, learns new weapon skills quickly and finds himself a beautiful “girlfriend”. It would have been game-normal if he’d got some artefact in the past which helped him in the present, but all he got was a supportive speech.

 

There’s two funny bits, which makes me sad that the person who thought of those didn’t have more control over the entire thing. With the same snappy editing that was used to illustrate Dominic’s kills, he makes himself a cup of coffee in the hotel room of the man he just assassinated (it plays funnier than it sounds); and later on in the movie, in the middle of a ton of flowery medieval speeches, the evil King says to our hero “You’ve come to kill me”, to which Dominic, not missing a beat and not changing his expression one bit, replies “Yup”. Little touches that deserve a better movie around them.

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I was ready to kill the camera operator by the end, though. I’m never normally bothered by shaky-cam, but it honestly felt like they were trying to make me sick. If you suffer at all, then just close your eyes until the sound of metal on metal stops (you won’t miss anything). Luckily, he stopped wobbling long enough to show the castle where the final battle takes place, and I’d bet £££ it’s the same castle used in one of the later “Deathstalker” movies. That’s the sort of analysis you can only expect from the ISCFC!!

 

Poor Dominic Purcell, he at least sort of tries. A bit. Every single other member of the cast is Eastern European, and the accents are pretty thick – to be fair, their English is better than my Bulgarian – which adds another annoying layer to it all. Even if you can make it through all that (and I enjoyed parts 1 and 2, sort of), there’s still that overwhelming sense of “why on earth was this made?” I was really surprised at how little I hated the Uwe Boll movies I’d seen in our recent series on him, but this one broke the trend, and hard.

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For a film that’s one third modern Eastern European action thriller, two thirds medieval wander-through-the-woods adventure, it’s…even worse than that sounds. I suppose, to a smart film fan reading this, the first thing that’ll spring to mind is “Army of Darkness”, but aside from being vastly superior in every single way to this, that spends a great deal less time in the “present”. And it linked the two eras, whereas this just doesn’t bother. If you’re desperate to watch an accidental time-travel action adventure, definitely watch that instead.

 

Rating: thumbs down

In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007)

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Wondering why Uwe Boll bothered to licence “Dungeon Siege” as the game to make a movie from is almost as much fun as the movie itself. The game was never a mega-hit, seen as the poor cousin of the “Elder Scrolls” series of games (and a weak combination of “Ultima” and “Diablo” in terms of gameplay). I assume money was involved somewhere, which may point to the $60 million budget of this. $60 million! For Uwe Boll! You might even have been surprised to learn that the movie was based on a computer game, so minor was the link (“A Dungeon Siege Tale” was much smaller on the posters); and the link was completely broken for its two sequels, which are “In The Name Of The King” movies only.

One of the main criticisms thrown at our friend Boll is his rather odd casting choices, like the people he assembles don’t really belong in the same film. This could be exhibit A in that weird pointless court case – as well as a starring role for Jason Statham, we get John Rhys-Davies, Leelee Sobieski, Ray Liotta, Ron Perlman, Clare Forlani, Matthew Lillard, and Burt Reynolds as the King. Burt Reynolds! He seems to be in that late-period Marlon Brando mindset of not wanting or having to try, just turning up being enough for him. Even though they’re a surprising bunch to see together, I don’t mind it.

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Statham is Farmer, an orphan boy who’s grown up to be a good solid adult. He farms (obviously), has a beautiful wife (Forlani), a young son, has been trained by the village badass (Perlman) to be a great fighter, basically your general all-round hero in the making. The King’s nephew (Lillard) wants the throne, as the king has no children, so he throws his lot in with evil wizard Ray Liotta; he takes over the Krug race (sort of the Orc’s poor cousin) and they try and take over the Kingdom. One of the villages they overrun is Farmer’s, one of the kids they kill is his son, so he puts down his turnips and picks up a sword. If you want an extremely detailed recap of the plot, get yourself to Wikipedia. I’m all about trying to psychoanalyse Uwe Boll through his movies.

But we must talk of my favourite “Sliders” alumnus. John Rhys-Davies and Leelee Sobieski (as the father-daughter good wizard duo) feel like they’re survivors from some previous rewrite; the JRD / Liotta fight at the end is pure Obi-Wan / Darth Vader, but none of the other characters conform to the stereotype so it all feels a bit odd and undercooked.

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Originality is definitely not one of this film’s strong suits. The primary inspiration is obviously “Lord of the Rings”, but there’s little flavours of a dozen other films in there. Why are there ninjas on the side of the good guys? Because Uwe Boll, that’s why. To anyone who says “there’s no way ninjas would be in this era / time period”, there’s also no way they’d have magic and weird gross orcs either, so quit your worrying. No-one really seems to bother about sticking to “fantasy conventions”, and while I’m quite glad about that you might not be. A conversation you need to have with yourself before thinking of viewing? Perhaps best not to think about the lots of little cul-de-sacs the film gets itself into, and you may have to just enjoy the spectacle with this one.

But the spectacle is great. Filmed in Canada, it does a great job of doubling for a fantasy kingdom, and they use the huge trees and uniquely Canadian landscape to good advantage. Boll really did a good job of making the movie look good, with nice special effects (the flying / teleporting thing is really well done) and many fairly hefty battle scenes. You can see where every penny of the $60 million went.

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Is it any good? That’s a slightly trickier question. It’s certainly better than the near-hysterical negative reviews it got at the time, which mocked everything about it, giving it Razzie nominations, a long-term bottom 100 IMDB rating, with some site ranking it in the ten worst computer game movies of all time (it’s not like there’s thousands of them, so this isn’t the worst thing in the world). The more you think about it, the sillier it seems, but Boll’s movies at the very least have a sense of humour and don’t take themselves especially seriously. Well, most of the characters do, but then you get Statham (who takes everything very seriously) vs Liotta (who realises just how big a joke this all is) and the style-clash does baffle a little.

I can sense this becoming a trend – years after the Boll mockery died away and you can watch his movies with fresh eyes, they’re…not so bad. They’re not great, by any stretch, but compared to more recent genre fare they look great – top actors, decent special effects, well-paced. I laughed with this movie way more than I laughed at it, and I think if you’ve got a relatively open mind you will too. Honestly, if the me of 2007 could see the me of now…first up, he’d be sad my beard was going grey, but then he’d mock me for saying nice things about Uwe Boll movies.

Rating: thumbs up

House Of The Dead 2 (2005)

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Having wasted my best line about this in a Twitter exchange with the excellent HorrorHoneys – “House of the Dead 2 makes House of the Dead look like Dawn of the Dead” – I found myself with not tons to say about this movie. It exists, and that’s about it.

Uwe Boll had nothing to do with this one, and the main way you can tell is it’s gone from crazy to boring. The one and only thing about “House of the Dead” (games and first film) is that they never let up. You kill a lot of zombies, pause to have the barest minimum of plot, then kill more zombies. This has, after a wildly sexist “raid the sorority house” opening, some scientists and a group of army guys trying to make their way through a school campus to get to the lab where the professor apparently started this particular zombie outbreak, but taking their sweet time about it.

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There are a couple of fun scenes as we’re introduced to the characters. Main scientists / agents Emmanuelle Vaugier and Ed Quinn establish their flirty relationship early on, and then the army people are sketched out (including Victoria Pratt from “Mutant X”). Nothing spectacular, but competent, and done relatively briefly; and the way the “antidote” MacGuffin becomes important for different reasons to everyone is a nice basic bit of storytelling. It’s just everything else that’s the problem.

There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. I lost count of the number of times people had blood from zombies splash onto their face with zero ill effects; yet a zombie-mosquito bite is enough to finish one guy off. Our main people run through huge crowds of zombies and don’t get bitten, as if all of a sudden our walking dead friends suddenly forgot how to do it (yet there’s other scenes where one zombie finishes off several people). Worst of all is the pacing. We come to a crescendo of sorts at 1:10, so I was quite happy that the experience would be over quicker than anticipated. But it just keeps going, and the ending is just the previous 15 minutes of the movie, sort of repeated. It’s weird. And bad.

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Worse than movies that are terrible are movies where there’s no real reason for them to exist. It’s a sequel to a computer game movie, made by people who (I’d hazard a guess) never played or even saw any of the games it was based on; it just feels sloppy, like they couldn’t be bothered outside of a few key scenes. Leave this off your Uwe Boll bad movie night playlist, because people will be falling asleep.

Rating: thumbs down

House Of The Dead (2003)

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The Uwe Boll era was pretty strange. Starting off as a director of thrillers and action movies, from 2003 to 2011 or so, he exploited a German tax law designed to stimulate local film production and made a run of films based on computer games. At the same time, the internet was completing its dominance of every aspect of our lives, so precursors of sites like this and huge forums were popping up all over the place. All those snarky internet people needed something to mock, and Boll was the perfect candidate – his movies were sort of cheesy, plus he was foreign and a bit odd.

The high point of his fame was 2006, when he challenged his harshest critics to a boxing match, and handily beat them all. Now, “Raging Boll” (as it was christened by its betting site sponsors) worked in Boll’s favour, as the critics (including Rich Kyanka, head of somethingawful.com) came across as whiny babies afterwards, talking about how the mean man had bent the rules or not fought the toughest guys and had committed the cardinal sin, taking it seriously while they’d all thought it was a bit of a laugh. I’d mocked him as much as anyone before that, but afterwards I developed a sort of grudging respect for the man; and now, long after the hype has died down, the tax law has been repealed and he’s back to making “normal” movies, including at least one (“Rampage”) which managed to get positive reviews, I’ve decided to revisit him as part of ISCFC’s season of video game movies.

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“House Of The Dead” is the game with the light-guns attached that you’ll see in arcades, and is pretty much you shooting an uninterrupted stream of zombies, with the occasional super-zombie to off as well. It is, it must be said, not the most narrative-driven of all games, and while the movie has half a go at telling a story, they realise why people would go and see it and give us plenty of what we want. A group of wealthy young adults are off to a rave, handily sponsored by Sega (House of the Dead’s owners) but miss the transport to its island location. They hire a battered old fishing boat, crewed by Jurgen Prochnow and Clint “Gentle Ben” Howard (?), and set off for the rave themselves, pursued by some cops who think Prochnow’s a smuggler (he is). Anyway, they get to the rave and wouldn’t you know it? A bunch of zombies, disturbed by the wealthy partying idiots, have killed pretty much everyone there. So, it’s the original party-goers, four other survivors, Prochnow, Gentle Ben and the cop against an absolute ton of zombies.

Boll has captured the spirit of the game by having basically no characterisation – each cast member could be described comfortably with one word (“slut”, idiot”, “jock”, “pervert”, etc) – and, in a move I think is having a laugh rather than being cheap, uses bits of the computer game as special effects when the remaining ravers are walking down a moss-covered tunnel shooting at zombies. There’s computer-game-esque bits all through, too, like the “rotating camera” trick around all the main characters when they die, fading to red. Awww! Plus, the zombies in this are easy to kill, much like their game counterparts. I mean, watching people shoot zombies sounds like fun, but when you’re on the tenth straight minute of them stood outside a house, mowing people down, it does start to get a bit samey. Even seeing zombies gurn for the camera every time the scene changes begins to grate too.

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I think the comedy attempts fall a bit flat, but…he’s trying! And it never really slows down, either, so you’ve not got tons of time to be bored. The zombies look fine, and it’s definitely not a cheap-looking movie, and while the plot is a bit non-existent, it is (and I hesitate to say this about an Uwe Boll movie) fun. Prochnow gets the best line, as one of the ravers says “Shoot it!” and he growls back “What do you think I’m trying to do, you fucking moron?” It’s not said enough in movies. Oh, there’s also surprising nudity from future “Smallville” star Erica Durance as one of the ravers. I felt bad for her having to disrobe for this movie.

Here’s the thing. Boll suffered more critical abuse than just about any other director I can think of, but much like another mockery recipient, Ed Wood, I don’t think it’s all deserved. Like Wood, there’s some odd casting (Prochnow and Howard for Boll, Lugosi and Tor Johnson for Wood), but there’s enthusiasm and love for genre movies too. I don’t think Boll is great, necessarily, but if you look at the main producers of genre fare over the last decade like The Asylum, SyFy Channel and Nu Image, his back catalogue starts to look pretty good. I did not expect to ever write that sentence, but the world has gotten worse while Boll has stayed the same.

Rating: thumbs up

Rampage: Capital Punishment (2014)

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Directed by: Uwe Boll

There was a certain amount of disbelief when Uwe Boll made a ‘ok-ish’ movie in the shape of ‘Rampage’. Thankfully he is back to form on with its sequel – ‘Rampage: Capital Punishment’, Boll delivers a real turkey stuffed full of OTT violence and overlong ranty political guff.

‘Rampage: Capital Punishment’ cleverly brings us up to speed on what happened to the first film’s antagonist Bill Williamson. Bill went into hiding for a couple of years after his massacre, now he’s back planning another atrocity that will get America’s attention. Boy he sure is angry about the state of his nation.

Uwe Boll has given the film a point of view feel, which comes from the immature mind of the kind puny male who goes on a shooting spree, and then in its aftermath, all the tabloid bin sniffers dig out a tatty manifesto that has been either posted in a blog or uploaded to YouTube, and label this deeply troubled and disenfranchised young man insane in their hallowed pages under the guise of news. In recent times we’ve seen countless school shootings, and at its worst in recent years we’ve had the Boston marathon bombings. After these tragic events occur fingers are pointed towards the media, violent movies, violent video games, lack of parenting, aggressive music, because some angry young man has gone ballistic. Boll taps into the fear, but does so clumsily, not particularly making an original point, yet somehow holding a cracked mirror to popular culture, politics and new media. There’s a plot line involving a news anchor named Chip who has one eye on the changing political landscape and the rise of whistleblowers and hactivists like Julian Assange, but is preoccupied with ratings and boardroom pressure from his Producer (played by Boll); but mostly this film is a mess of empty rhetoric without any incisive original thought.

Is Boll saying that peaceful protest gets you nowhere? Perhaps so, I mean the crisply shot ISIS (IS?) beheading videos and other such viral propaganda released this year have seemingly spoken to thousands of disillusioned young men and women, causing them to trek across the world and partake in war games, it is a call to arms in a way that the short lived OCCUPY movement wasn’t. This revolution, which popular figures like Russell Brand talks about, needs to go viral, but in the mind of Bill Williamson, that revolution needs to begin through violence.

As the audience, are we supposed to agree with the sentiment of Williamson’s views? We certainly can’t condone his murdering ways, but his points are ultimately overshadowed by the violence. He tries to get our attention, but all we see is red.

– RJW

5/10

 

Rampage: Capital Punishment on IMDB