After his “Waterworld” budget-busting debacle, one wonders why Kevin Costner would jeopardize his capricious career with yet another post-apocalyptic action flick. No, “The Postman” isn’t as atrocious as the inane trailers and media hype have indicated, but like “Waterworld” a lot of the prerelease scrutiny is well warranted.
The setup, based upon David Brin’s novel, is essentially the same as “Waterworld,” the “Mad Max” series or even “Planet of the Apes”: in the near future (2013) civilization has crumbled and in some remote recess, decent folk struggle for survival in a lawless, Western landscape that is demonized by a tyrannical megalomaniac. Will Patton plays the maniacal baddie, General Bethlehem, a former copier salesman who leads a clan of neo-Nazis on plundering raids throughout the Pacific Northwest. Costner, rehashing his “Waterworld” and “Dances With Wolves” characters, drifts into the oppressive situation, a stranger claiming to be a US Postal worker in order to stir sentiment and pander a meal. But as folly, circumstance and the formulaic plot would have it, Costner’s missive courier reluctantly rises above his self interests to lead the meek in their righteous insurrection against Bethlehem’s marauders.
At three hours, “The Postman” surprisingly doesn’t drag on, though it struggles frantically against its maudlin, epic-like framework. Costner, at his nonchalant best, is palatable, but Patton is a sheer spectacle, posturing his Napoleonic psycho with gestures and inflections that beg comedic comparison to Charlton Heston. The film’s most gracious performance comes from Olivia Williams as Costner’s love interest. Unfortunately, even her sensual effervescence is not enough to atone for the inept dialogue and troublesome overuse of slow motion sequences.