Uwe Boll’s films are roundly savaged whenever one plops out of his movie-making production line for all to see. It seems that the level of derision and hatred that Boll receives increases with every release. People don’t understand how Boll keeps making films that lose so much money and, in his own words, the process of funding is becoming much more difficult. This film, one of six he directed in 2010, is not by any stretch of the imagination one of the worst films ever made, and might in fact be eligible to be called Uwe Boll’s best film. The fact remains that there is a prejudice towards Uwe Boll and his mostly stinky films and that having the Boll name attached to a film is likely to change your opinion of it.
So, the objective facts. Max Schmeling was a boxer in Germany during the 1930’s and 1940’s. He was world champion for two years and was renowned in his own country as a legendary boxer and sportsman. This film is the story of his career after winning the world title, and his tense relationship with the Nazi party. Max Schmeling himself, played by professional boxer Henry Maske, is portrayed in the film as a one-dimensional hunk of meat who is always honest, always truthful, giving, and heroic. Henry Maske’s performance is amateur and wooden, frequently chewing the scenery whenever he’s on camera. His wife Anny, played by Susanne Wuest, is a professional actress and performer, but unfortunately carries no emotional weight or depth of feeling. In the end we want Schmeling to succeed not because a touching relationship has been carefully built between viewer and character, but because the cast walk around inside this film like animals in a pound; not knowing why they are there, confused by the events unfolding around them and reacting blindly to the dull story that unfurls itself ahead of them.
The film is a straight-forward biopic, complete with training montage after training montage with stirring, overwrought music that courses throughout. Like an even more mawkish Rocky, the film gallops along in a perfectly straight line, never deviating from it’s purpose until it’s done bludgeoning you over the head with a story you didn’t ask for, nor care to be told. That said, the film looks beautiful – the cameraman seemingly the only person with any film nous – and often the only thing making a scene watchable is the fine cinematography.
The boxing scenes, of which there are many, are dull and poorly choreographed. Strangely, seeing as Henry Maske is himself a professional boxer, he seems uncomfortable in the ring. Uncomfortable is a great word for Maske’s performance throughout this whole piece. He’s confused as to why he’s been cast – seemingly only because the real Max Schmeling wanted him to play him – and delivers his lines in a stalling, Arnie-style manner befitting of his hulking, European exterior. It’s a cliché to see big men talking like Arnie but Maske really does. It’s great to see, for the first two minutes. Then it gets annoying.
Lots of Nazi issues are touched on for a bafflingly short time. Max Schmeling drives straight through Kristallnacht to save a Jewish family without much trouble, and rescues two children who are never seen again. His Jewish manager Joe moves to America, but we never see him actually saying goodbye, or have any kind of send-off. He just goes. That’s this film in a nutshell – it just is. It’s nothing special, nothing great, nothing bad, nothing unwatchable, it’s just a boxer biopic. The kind that’s sort of an anachronism in modern movie-making, a sub-Rocky story of hope overcoming hatred in a really dull and tedious way.