Stoic. 2009. Directed & Written by Uwe Boll.
Starring Edward Furlong, Shaun Sipos, Sam Levinson, and Steffen Mennekes.
Event Film Distribution
Unrated. 91 minutes.
★★★1/2I’m not in the camp of people who enjoys to hate on filmmakers. There are tons of people online who, instead of offering valid and constructive criticism jump directly to calling out the writers and directors, making a joke out of their work. It’s fine not to like things, it’s fine to downright hate a movie, but why not try and offer something useful instead of hating?
Anyways, Uwe Boll divides people. Mostly into a tiny group of people who enjoy his work, for whatever reason, versus a massive amount of the moviegoing public who generally despise the movies he directs. Me, I’m not so hard on Boll. Certainly I don’t hate him, I don’t wish he’d stop making movies. In fact, I hope he keeps on making films because in recent years he has actually put out a few decent flicks. While his public persona is a bit much for others, a lot of it is him knowing that “any press is good press” and ultimately his films are going to get marketed to people, whether they like it or not; if people continue to lay waste to his reputation in the film world online, then he’s always on the tip of people’s tongues. The same as Ed Wood will ALWAYS be remembered in film history, regardless of whether or not he was a complete and utter hack or not (he was pretty damn hacky). Uwe Boll will go down in history, despite what people want. Because he’s so vocally despised. It keeps him in the public eye, in some way, shape, or form.
With Stoic, I’ve started to come around to Boll as a filmmaker. This is due to the fact he’s becoming a better one, in my opinion. Not only is this film shot well – a highly claustrophobic and haunting feel overall – the editing fit well with Boll’s style. There is a real closed-in feel to each and every scene, which helps build the tension throughout a tight and unsettling story. Be forewarned: this is not an easy film to sit through, and I’ve seen tons of rough horror, but this is a crime drama I’ll not soon forget.
Stoic is the story of Mitch Palmer (Shaun Sipos), a new cellmate in a jailhouse for non-violent offenders. Housed in the same bunk with him are three inmates: Harry Katish (Edward Furlong), Peter Thompson (Sam Levinson), and Jack Ulrich (Steffen Mennekes).
One day, after a regular game of poker begins to escalate, Harry and the other two inmates turn on Mitch. What starts as some simple bullying between experienced inmates and a fresher fish eventually becomes a vision into the construction of masculinity within prison culture.
Based on a true story which occurred in a German prison – in the city of Siegburg – during the year 2006, Stoic is Uwe Boll’s look at modern tragedy among a group of supposedly non-violent offenders who become both cruel and violent under a vicious group psychosis.One of the things which makes this a genuinely decent film is the way Boll juxtaposes the events in the prison cell between the inmates vs. their ‘talking head’ interviews after the fact about what happened. This way, we’re able to see how manipulative and egocentric each of the violent men truly are underneath it all. In the flashbacks to the events, clearly these men are willing participants, all three, in all that transpires. Yet while they’re being interviewed, the stories twist and turn. So it’s a pretty damn good analysis of how these sort of horrible things happen in prison, then after the fact the prisoners who are involved in shameful acts try and pass it off; there’s a time and place for the “prison made me do this” excuse, and this is NOT one of them at all. When you see a man in prison, a non-violent offender, forced into murder in order to protect himself, then you can understand that type of explanation. In a senseless and chaotic sense such as in Stoic, there’s no reasoning for this type of disgusting behaviour.Edward Furlong is a hit or miss type of actor. He used to be incredible – particularly I loved him alongside Edward Norton as the little brother in American History X. Here I’ve got to say, Boll pulls a real nice performance out of him. Of course, I mean nice in a relative way – his character is despicable and nasty. But Furlong gives us every inch of what this guy is about, every hideous gesture, every horrible word out of his mouth. Too bad he isn’t more consistent as an actor, yet here we get solid work from him at least.
Shaun Sipos does a fine job as the tortured prisoner, subject to the wrath of his petty inmates. I felt sick for the guy, watching them manipulate him both mentally and physically. He seemed like the type of person who would’ve never hurt a soul. All the while, these guys get so savage over the fact this guy won’t eat a tube of toothpaste after losing a bet – a bet which he initiated in the first place. Almost like torture for the audience themselves having to watch such brutality.
Another despicable character, like the other inmates is played by Sam Levinson. He is quite unsettling in his own right. At first, especially with the ‘talking head’ interview he’s giving after the fact, you seem to think that his character wants to help Mitch (Sipos). Unfortunately, that’s all part of the psychology: this guy does terrible things then tries to pass it off as being forced into doing so, that it was a “go along or get along” type of situation. All because things went further than he expected, then he had to go along or else the others might’ve turned around and done the same thing to him. Another character played well, but one you certainly hate in the end.
There’s no reason to leave out Steffen Mennekes. His performance is pretty good, as well. Another awful character who is just as hateful as the other two. He is even worse because he’s the first to begin the real violence against Mitch. He beats the kid, forcing him into eating his own vomit off the floor, then things truly get out of hand. Mennekes is a threatening presence, even more than the others because of his size and the character’s temper flares up so quickly and easily.
Honestly I found Stoic chilling. There’s a bit of graphic violence and absolutely nasty behaviour. The rape scene is fairly brutal. I have to say, it was awful. That’s the only part that really went into terribly graphic territory. I hate to see any rape scene done in too explicit detail. There’s really no need for it, in any case. However, there’s no ignoring this is part of the story; the real one, as well. They did hideous things to that young man. Unfortunately we have to see a bit too long of a scene or two involved with this act. Boll could’ve went a lot less heavy with these bits because it goes on for what feels like forever. I understand the harshness of the actions these men committed, but to show so much of what happened, even with the off-screen bits – over the line.
“Look at what happens. Look at what happens.”
Asolid 3.5 out of 5 star film. Apparently there was a lot of improvisation, not a full-on script here, so maybe if Uwe Boll had taken more time and polished up a good script based on this true, disturbing story, things would’ve come off better. Either way, there’s enough tension and claustrophobia within Stoic to make this an unsettling piece of work. Boll is getting better. Instead of ridiculing him and just trying to run him out of the business, why not encourage a man to get better? With taut bits of film like this, there’s plenty of room for Boll to carve out a niche with this style. More of this, Uwe. You’re on the path.
It’s not perfect, but it is miles ahead of most of the other work he has ever done. With that, I’m soon going to review Rampage; another recent Boll effort I’m a huge fan of and think is an awesome thriller. Stay tuned. If you ever see this, Uwe – keep trying to do your best, it’s all anyone can do in this life.