27 July 2006 | Crap_Connoisseur
More Boll Brilliance
Heart of America, released in Australia as "Home Room", is a well acted and finely crafted film. Uwe Boll tackles a most difficult subject matter with a grace and subtlety that you would not expect from the director of "Alone In The Dark" and "House Of The Dead". Somewhat predictably, Uwe's armchair critics have been sharpening their knives over this film as well. Do these people have anything better to do than rant about a relatively obscure film director's shortcomings? Don't be put off by Uwe's undeserved reputation as the king of crap; Heart of America is a great film.
Heart of America is one of several films to be inspired by recent high school shooting tragedies. This may sound like a perverse topic for Uwe Boll to examine given his subsequent devotion to making gory horror movies. However, Boll has crafted a surprisingly intelligent and thought provoking film. More impressively, Uwe succeeds where the likes of Gus Van Sant have failed - unlike "Elephant", Heart of America actually makes for interesting viewing. By treating this theme within the context of what appears to be a straight forward teen drama, Boll allows viewers to get to know the characters before plunging into tragedy. This makes the eventual outcome all the more affecting.
One of the few complaints about Uwe Boll that carries some validity is his tendency to overlook any kind of character development. This makes the in depth character study in Heart of America all the more satisfying. The lives of both the shooters and the victims are explored, which provides a balanced insight into the circumstances that can lead to such inexplicable events and puts a human face to the perpetrators of such acts. The film is interestingly constructed, revealing a group of very different but equally unhappy and disillusioned teens. One reviewer described these characters as stereotypes and I could not disagree more. The characters are almost hyper-real. The drug dealer might look like an extra from "The O.C." but the bullied teenagers, the frustrated teacher and the perplexed principal are all wonderfully realised.
The acting in the film is mostly outstanding. Once again, Boll has collected a fantastic cast - Juergen Prochnow and Michael Pare are at their very best. It's nice to see a cameo from Maria Conchita Alonso as a school counsellor and Boll regular Will Sanderson is great as the town loser. The younger actors are mostly fine, with the exception of the pregnant girl and the wooden Barbie doll playing the principal's daughter.
The film works best when exploring the lives of its teen characters. The scenes of bullying and the flashback to the rape of a disabled girl are bleak, gritty and powerful. The look on the brother's face as he hears his idolised sibling recount the rape is devastating. The film loses its way occasionally (what was with the secretary and her bizarre hand gesture to celebrate the last day of school?) but everything is held together by slick editing and a very clever script. I have always enjoyed Uwe's unique directorial skills and he outdoes himself here. I can't wait for more computer game adaptations but after seeing this I hope he squeezes another hard hitting drama into his schedule.
Heart of America is a riveting film that deserves a bigger audience. This film is eloquent and thought provoking, while still managing to be interesting and entertaining. This movie should be judged on its merits, not the subsequent films of its director.