Steven Seagal: Nothing breaks my heart more than seeing good actors in shit films for a quick buck. However, I never experience more intense bouts of simultaneous anger and apathy than seeing Steven Seagal‘s latest releases. Seagal shot to fame in the 1980s with a rapid bout of mainstream action films; Nico (AKA – Above the Law), Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, Under Seige… While none of them were ‘Best. Movie. Ever’ status, they were all quite enjoyable but – most importantly – fitting for the time. Not one to let past glories fade, if you pick any point over the last 30 years I bet that SS was working on the same old hackneyed one-man-army B-Movie action film.
There’s not much else that Seagal hasn’t dabbled in: directing, producing, writing, choreography, he’s got a blues band with two albums, he’s a Reserve Deputy Chief with his own ‘reality’ TV show (Steven Seagal: Lawman), he has released his own therapeutic oils and an energy drink (‘Steven Seagal’s Lightning Bolt’), aftershave (‘Scent of Action’), knives, and is in the process of designing his own gun with ORSIS rifles.
Verdict: I don’t really care that he has a bunch of dodgy lawsuits, or is friends with Putin, or still tries to convince everyone he’s a total badass (Video)… What bothers me about Seagal are his crimes against cinema. His films are literally all the same. He’s always an Ex-Black Ops / Mercenary / Hitman. He’s never in danger. Every synopsis is the same. And practically every poster & DVD cover is identical: his big face – usually close up – with an equally massive gun, pulling a ‘badass‘ pose. Even the titles are impressively unimaginative like “Ultimate Revenge”, “Out For Vengeance”, “Retribution Overload”, “Payback Force”, “Explosive Justice” or other such nonsense.
Justice Genius or Arsey Ryback – YOU DECIDE!
Born to Raise Hell [Blu Ray]: an Interpol agent assigned to Eastern Europe gets a replacement partner (his last one died on the job) to help him take down a Gypsy gang. The first time director constantly misses the mark with a poorly handled rape/burglary, then laugh-out-loud ‘intimate scene’, and a ton of woeful action moments. My biggest gripe surfaces with entire minutes of filler shots and blurry cam montages between the scenes. It’s amateur hour behind the camera, and in front of the camera we have Seagal (!!) with an ominously lit face and awkward gun-holding poses. He and his crew do the script justice, with classic lines like “lemme see yo hands bitch”, “wat the fuck is wrong wit chu boy” and every other Seagal sentence ending with “maaaaan”. His new colleague even dares to whisper the line “I’m one month away from becoming a father” – I WONDER IF HE WILL MAKE IT TO THE END?!?!!? Written solely by Seagal, It’s little surprise that he penned himself as a one-man-army cop with an unfeasibly hot girlfriend and mad fighting skillz – despite being a big oaf. The Bucharest setting is in more bad taste than you could imagine, everyone’s has a crazy Russian-esque accent, but talks English, is involved with drugs and works as a gangster or stripper. The entire film just reeks of cheap and is possibly the flattest and most uninspired Seagal flick you could imagine – it makes his ‘Lawman’ TV show look like Oscar Bait. The Blu Ray’s decent enough, but there’s nothing here worth watching. Proof if proof be needed that Seagal definitely is a
one-no-trick-pony-tail. Why are people still letting him do films?
Machete: A betrayed Federale butchers his way through a corrupt syndicate to avenge the death of his wife and child. The full 105 minutes of Machete are just absolutely absurd, from the first fully naked chick pulling out her mobile to intestine misuse and seeing Seagal attempt a latino accent… The grindhouse / shock element is pretty cranked to parody / laughable; although the film relies more on CGI than the inventiveness and real gore that genuine b-movies usually would. In saying that, the action is sweet, bloody and OTT fun – although the editing makes it all seem a bit haphazard. A lot of the story rooted in both sides of a real immigration issue – albeit exaggerated. Action hall-of-famer Danny Trejo finally gets his shot at playing a lead, although the Machete character could be any of his memorable previous roles. Everyone else is effective but pretty forgettable, except for De Niro, whose career just seems to be irretrievable. For the gents in the cast the film’s about 10-20 years too late – there’s nothing really exciting about seeing a fat Seagal and out-of-shape Trejo trying to duel. The deliberately old and retro look and feel to the film works quite well, and Rodriguez is clearly a B-movie/exploitation fan, but with all the CGI – and big names – it does lose the certain appeal of real B-movies. For what it is, and what it’s supposed to be, Machete totally hits the mark. Tongue-in-cheek Mexploitation. Fun, entertaining, over-the-top schlock.
One Day Removals: Two removal men see their day go from bad, to worse, to worser, to – how do you say it… ah… ‘fucked’! Being a low-budget, local, film I didn’t really know how bad it would be, but was totally surprised when it turned out to be pretty damn professional. For a sub-b movie this punches above its weight. A really good black comedy, with quite an original story and enough laughs to make it enjoyable. The effects and gore are impressive, the sound mix is solid throughout and you can tell that a lot of effort has gone in to it. Unfortunately, only Scottish people will be able to completely understand this as it’s in the full-blown local dialect. It’s also the most sweary film I’ve seen in a long, long feckin’ time! The news spoofing and court montage are great, but it’s worth picking up the DVD for the ‘Sewary Edit’ and out-takes alone. You can buy the film here, and it would a great gift for any homesick Scottish / Aberdonian people you know!