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Friday, December 2, 2011


Confession time again: this is my first Uwe Boll movie.  Of course, I've heard a lot about the widely-reviled director on IMDb and other film-related forums, and have been curious to see a sample of his work that's supposed to be so inept.  So now that I've watched IN THE NAME OF THE KING 2: TWO WORLDS (2011), I have to say--yeah, it's pretty bad.  But this sword-and-sorcery yarn is bearable as a mildly entertaining direct-to-DVD time waster if you watch it with absolutely no expectations whatsoever.

I'm still not exactly sure what it's about, but a 21st-century Dolph Lundgren (as ex-soldier "Granger") gets yanked through a time vortex into the Medieval era and is tasked by a young king (Lochlyn Munro) to kill an evil, plague-spreading sorceress known as "The Holy Mother" because, somehow, he is "The Chosen One."  And destiny, and fate, and yadda-yadda-yadda. 

Dubious Dolph sets off through the (Canadian) forest medieval with a pretty female doctor named Manhatten (Natassia Malthe) and the even more dubious king's guardsman Allard (Aleks Paunovic), who thinks Dolph's fulla beans, and discovers along the way that all is not what it seems and his fate-decreed task has taken a twisted turn.

The opening sequence is the most accomplished part of the film, with a sorceress from the past named Elianna (Natalia Guslistaya) being pursued through the woods by black-garbed assassins before turning on her heel and making short work of them with knives, an old-school grenade, and some slightly anachronistic kung fu moves.  At the end of this nicely-done vignette she bursts out of the forest whereupon the camera pans around to find her running toward the skyline of modern-day Vancouver.  The sequence is well-directed and looks good, and viewers should savor it while they can because it's pretty much the last time that those terms will apply.

The rest of IN THE NAME OF THE KING 2: TWO WORLDS is done in the same markedly uninspired "point 'n' shoot" style my Dad used to use making 8mm home movies of us when we were kids, with a constant jiggling motion that makes even the quieter dialogue scenes more annoying.  You know an action scene is underway because the camera bobbles and whips around even worse, although the action is so blandly directed that this is probably for the best. 

The low-budget sets--a modest walled-in fortress, an encampment or two--are adequate, while a lack of extras makes the film look underpopulated.  Dolph's quest to find something called "The Catalyst" leads him face-to-face with a winged, fire-breathing CGI dragon which is pretty well-rendered, in a better-than-usual SyFy Channel sort of way.  This belligerent beastie's fiery attack on the king's fortress is one of the better sequences in the film, livening things up after a number of rather dull stretches in which the plot and dialogue are less than scintillating.

The screenplay fails to exploit the "Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" possibilities inherent in the situation, although we do get a number of mild verbal gags (Dolph puzzles his medieval hosts by saying things such as "You mean I'm going in there with zero intel?" and using words like "screwed").  Aside from basic fighting prowess, his character doesn't do anything particularly modern in battling the bad guys or use any advanced ingenuity to solve problems.  He doesn't even have a boomstick!

Familiar actor Lochlyn Munro (UNFORGIVEN, SCARY MOVIE) is kind of fun to watch as the callow King--whose motives we're never sure of at first--as is Natassia Malthe as Manhatten, who naturally falls for our beefy hero.  Aleks Paunovic as brave Allard and Heather Doerksen as Dunyana, a noble, strong-willed woman Dolph encounters along the way, acquit themselves well.  Probably the best performance is given by Christina Jastrzemska (as "The Holy Mother"), an older actress with enough skill and experience to make her dumb dialogue sound like it almost makes sense. 

As for Dolph, he's a solid performer in the right kind of role and I always enjoy watching him.  But after an early scene in which he wistfully toasts his fallen battlefield comrades on the anniversary of their death, he spends the rest of the film looking like he's one step away from hitting the craft services table or hopping into the nearest jacuzzi.

The DVD from 20th-Century Fox Home Entertainment is widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Extras include director and writer commentaries plus two featurettes on the making of and writing of the film.  Special mention goes to composer Jessica de Rooij, whose bombastic, almost Albert Glasser-like score makes the film seem more exciting than it is.

IN THE NAME OF THE KING 2: TWO WORLDS returns to the present day for its finale, but by then it's too late to make us care very much about what happens.  While okay for frittering away an hour-an-a-half in an offhand way, you'd be better off getting your "modern guy in medieval times" jollies by digging out an old copy of ARMY OF DARKNESS.

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