Jim loses a large amount of money from his investments as a result of the 2008 banking crisis. His wife is recovering from a severe disease, but still requires expensive medical treatment. He also falls behind with several mortgage payments. Jim does what he can to improve his financial situation, but things go from bad to worse quickly. With nothing left to lose, he decides to make the people pay he believes are responsible for his misery.
Assault on Wall Street is one few movies that deals with the economic crisis of 2008 from the perspective of the lower and middle class, that was affected heavily due to massive layoffs and mortgage defaults. And no one less than Uwe Boll took on the task of visualizing this violent reckoning with Wall Street. Searing social commentary has been a recurring theme throughout Boll’s career. It began with his 1994 German movie Amoklauf where he first examined the question how far can you push a person before they start to take their grief and anger out on the world. More works like the satirical Postal and the raging Rampage series would follow. Even though the psychological aspects related to mass murderers are typically only treated superficially in Boll’s movies, the criticism of the many problems and contradictions of our Western capitalist society was always strongly present.
With Assault on Wall Street he returned to the topic, this time singling out the US financial industry as the main culprit for pushing people over the edge. Boll’s approach is very different compared to A-list productions like The Big Short and The Wolf of Wall Street, where the spreadsheet perpetrators were portrayed a lot more ambiguous, and their resolve and cleverness sometimes was even applauded occasionally. Boll clearly takes the side of the “losers” of the financial crisis, and makes it clear to the viewers that the Wall Street executives fully deserve what’s coming at them.
The plot buildup is simple, and checks all the boxes to maximize the tragedy that overcomes Jim and his wife. The series of events depicted in the movie is not extremely over-dramatized, though. The story can rather be considered one of the worst-case scenarios that happened to people in the 2008 crisis. Jim is confronted with greedy and lying people whenever his money is at stake, and Boll’s portrayal of the various types of bankers, lawyers and financial advisors is scathing. Production values are not spectacular, and the whole visual presentation is very modest. This is no problem, however, as it allows the audience to focus all the more on the story and dialogues.
The acting by everyone involved is solid, with Dominic Purcell giving a good performance as mostly stoic main character that is pushed to the brink of breakdown. The action scenes are fairly low-key, but the extreme outburst of bloody violence towards the end of the movie is fitting as a cathartic moment for Jim. The final sequence is almost a discourse on the nature of capitalism, which rounds off a surprisingly thoughtful film. Another reason why Attack on Wall Street actually works so well is that on an emotional level most people will be able to easily identify with Jim and his campaign of vengeance. The major controversial aspect of the movie is certainly that it visualizes the fantasy of taking revenge on the Banksters that allegedly steal money from ordinary people, but if there’s a person that never shied away from controversy, it’s Uwe Boll.