Uwe Boll–the name strikes terror into the hearts of many movie fans, although the casual viewer might say “Uwe he?” German born Boll is a controversial figure in cinema today and his films are often highly controversial and critically mauled. So where does Tunnel Rats, Bolls latest film fit into his filmography? Well, apart from being his most recent film it is also his best – by a long shot. It really looks like knocking out film after film has finally paid off for Boll. It’s not Citizen Kane, but by Boll standards it’s on the road to Battlefield Earth.
Rarely has it pained me so much to say that a film isn’t bad, and it hurts – it hurts so much for me to say that Tunnel Rats (or 1968 Tunnel Rats as the opening titles would have it) is half decent. It’s not great by any stretch of the imagination; but it is far from the director’s worst film.
Stacked with stock characters from every war film ever made Tunnel Rats is a walking cliché. The plot of the film is simple: Michael Pare’s Sergeant Vic Hollowborn leads a band of new recruits into the Vietnamese tunnels in an attempt to stop the Vietnamese from killing US troops and then vanishing into their man made tunnels during the armed conflict. It’s an interesting premise, and one that is filled with potential – potential even Boll can’t destroy. Pitching the film more like a horror plays more to Boll’s…erm…strengths and he does manage to navigate his way through some interesting sequences.
For the first time in an Uwe Boll film I felt that I was watching people act and not read terrible dialogue. Boll states in an interview on the disc that much of the script was improvised – maybe this is the reason, but whatever the case it felt like I was watching a film and not an amateur theatrical group on DVD. The production values are also higher than most Boll films – the cinematography and score need some help – but at least when you’re aping Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now and Aliens you have something to work with.
Being Uwe Boll’s best film to date isn’t a huge recommendation, but it is at least watchable with some interesting sequences. Tunnel Rats is a film to watch in a Boll double bill with one of his earlier “lesser” efforts to see how the master (disaster?) has grown.
An edited 16 minute interview tells you all you need to know about the film’s production and shoot in South Africa as well as the ending to Blood Diamond! It’s not a bad interview, but Boll comes across as a pseudo-intellectual who knows a whole lot about nothing. A brief “making of” and some outtakes round out the package – but there’s nothing to heighten the “cinematic experience” of Tunnel Rats.