Shadow Man

SHADOW MAN, I’m sorry to say, is the most boring movie Seagal has made so far. At least on my first viewing. To be fair, both THE FOREIGNER and THE PATRIOT seemed alot more fun the second time I watched them. In some ways maybe Seagal movies are like operas, you gotta understand the plot first before you can appreciate all the pageantry. But still, this is not one of my favorites.

(No, I’ve never seen an opera before, I’m just guessin.)

Shadow ManWhen they first announced this one it was called SHADOWS ON THE SUN, and it was supposedly gonna be something very different for Seagal, a drama where he’s a doctor working at a clinic in post World War II Japan. Now the movie comes out and it is not anything new for Seagal, he is not a doctor and he’s not in Japan or the past. The box says he has to save his kidnapped daughter AND stop a deadly virus, an exciting double whammy plot. But again, what we receive is not quite what we were promised. His daughter does get kidnapped, but by some lady that’s actually trying to protect her (don’t ask me to explain because I don’t really get it), and there is a deadly virus, only he just has to hide the blueprints from everybody. It’s not out there yet. He’s not gonna get to go up in a helicopter and toss it in the water like he did with the suitcase bomb in BLACK DAWN.

Why is the movie called SHADOW MAN? Good question. But it’s a question with no answer, like those riddles the zen guys collect. They don’t call him a Shadow Man in the movie. Nobody says “first you see a shadow, then you’re dead.” He’s just the usual ex-CIA aikido instructor type and his name is Jack. There is one thing that’s unusual though. He apparently runs a Fortune 500 company. I don’t know which one, or what this has to do with anything, but that’s what the CIA guys say in part of the movie. At least I think they’re talking about him, because I’m not sure who else they could be talking about.

It’s the same sort of overly complicated, not badass enough plot that Seagal usually does these days. Like SUBMERGED they mention MK-Ultra, although this time they pretend it’s a virus that gives you cancer instead of a mind control program. Also like SUBMERGED, we get to hear Seagal’s now familiar voice double. He’s not in there as extensively as in some of the movies, but the first time he shows up the opening credits are still rolling. So you know from the beginning it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

SHADOW MAN definitely sets a new low for the use of doubles. Not stunt doubles, I’m talking about shots where “Seagal” opens a car door and things like that, which I’m pretty sure he can do safely without a stunt double. I guess they didn’t get all the shots they needed while Seagal was still on set. The funniest one is when Seagal and his female co-star come out of a building, only it’s not Seagal, it’s just some other dude with a ponytail and long coat. Okay so it’s not a closeup or anything but you can still clearly see this guy from the front. If I knew how to do screen grabs I’d show you, you’d get a good laugh out of it.

Another funny part that is turning into a reoccurring motif in Seagal’s DTV era, there’s a random sex scene where he’s with a much younger woman who drops her robe to show a big round ass, then he goes over and hugs her. You never see that girlfriend again but later there’s another scene where the female lead is in her underwear and he hugs her. He is turning into a serial hugger.

My favorite thing in the movie, and it’s nothing too special, is that Jack has a trademark move. It’s an aikido hit that causes a person to fly several feet back and hit a wall. He explains in his first scene that you can use it either on external organs or internal. To demonstrate the internal, he does it on a watermelon. One of his students says, “Sifu, I was very impressed with the way you broke the watermelon. Can you teach me? Can you give me a lesson?” And I thought, isn’t he already giving you a lesson? If not, what are you doing in his dojo listening to his lesson and wearing an aikido outfit? Is this only a coincidence? Are you just passing through on laundry day? Seagal rewards his dumb question by hitting him through a wall.

There’s other good bits too. He builds an elaborate MacGuyver type bomb. He pokes a guy’s eyes causing the guy to scream “My eyes!” and feel around on the floor for them. Also he kicks a guy in the nuts and then shoots him five times.

One thing that is notable is that the movie co-stars Imelda Staunton, Academy Award nominee for VERA DRAKE. She’s not the lead villain or anything but she is in multiple scenes as the Ambassador. She’s gotta be the most distinguished Seagal co-star since Michael Caine in ON DEADLY GROUND. I was surprised to see her name on the credits, and impressed. Not by the production’s casting coup, but by her willingness to follow up such a highly acclaimed performance with a Steven Seagal picture. I hope somebody told her that’s what it was. Because if so she must be cool.

Also, in one scene Seagal wears his reading glasses to examine a nano-chip. I think this is the first time he’s worn them on film. I saw him wear them while signing autographs, and like I said, he probaly uses them to examine samurai swords. Speaking of which, no swords in this movie. There is a reasonable amount of martial arts though, compared to SUBMERGED or something. There’s an extensive car chase but it’s pretty ridiculous, half of it is shots of Seagal and the woman he’s chasing making intense driving faces in front of an obvious greenscreen background.

Overall it’s watchable, but disappointing to this Seagalogist. Note to Joe Halpin, who seems to write all Seagal’s movies now: why don’t we try a simple plot next time? You look at the classics and they’re premises you can explain in one sentence. He gets framed and put in a coma, so he has to prove his innocence and kill the motherfuckers responsible. Terrorists take over a boat and he’s on it so he kills them off one by one. Terrorists take over a train and he’s on it so he kills them one by one. A dumbass from the neighborhood kills his partner so he tracks him down and kills him. Those are the types of plots you need for a Seagal movie, because the plot is the skeleton. It’s not the whole movie. You don’t need Seagal’s widow’s father is a rogue CIA agent who secretly plants a nano-chip on him and fakes his death in a car bombing but at the same time a taxi driver whose dad was in the CIA kidnaps Seagal’s daughter to keep her out of the way of the Russians who want to buy the deadly virus and Seagal has to team with a CIA guy he doesn’t trust who betrays him, but actually he likes Seagal and… whatever else happened in this movie. I honestly don’t remember anymore and didn’t catch it all in the first place. Because it’s too god damned complicated. If you spend all the time trying to explain that type of shit (or not explaining it and leaving everybody confused) there is no time for the actual star of the movie, which is Steven Seagal’s persona, his natural charisma, and his kicking of ass. You’re letting the plot get in the way of the movie.

My point is you want to make HARD TO KILL, not SYRIANA.

Think of it this way Joe. I used the blues analogy for slasher movies before but I think considering Thunderbox, etc. it is an appropriate analogy here too. A good blues song is not gonna be fancy and not even necessarily gonna be original. It’s gonna be classic.

Ba DA da BUMP. Well I woke up this morning.
Ba DA da BUMP. And I wanted to eat some scrambled eggs.
Ba DA da BUMP.

It’s a simple, driving structure and then the master bluesman or action hero (Steven Seagal in both cases here) puts his stamp on it, his flourish. He plays a simple song but he plays the hell out of it. That’s what you want to see him do. You don’t want to see him play a fuckin Eddie Van Halen ten thousand note guitar jerkoff solo and start juggling.

Keep it simple, Joe. We can do this.

This entry was posted on Monday, June 19th, 2006 at 11:21 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews, Seagal, War. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “Shadow Man”

  1. I saw an interview with Imelda Staunton a few days ago on the BBC looking at her whole career and she mentioned this film herself (they even played a clip!).

    She basically did it because she was going to Greece to film a BBC programme and, as this was being filmed in Romania and it was only two day’s work, she thought why not. Plus it gave her her first chance to use an American accent on film. Interestingly (to me) she said that Seagal never filmed any reverses with her, so she had to speak all her lines to his double. The double didn’t read any lines, so a third person – just some student, not even an actor – read Seagal’s script to cue up her parts.

    I doubt that’s his usual method of working, at least I hope so, as professionally it’s pretty rude. But it shows that he probably wasn’t that committed to the whole thing if her couldn’t be bothered to work properly with a fairly serious and respected actor. Which is a pity, but at least he’s made better films since then.

  2. Joe — nice find. I think we were all wondering how the heck that came about. Sorry she didn’t have any scenes with Seagal but to be honest her character’s role is so peripheral to the plot that they may well have added her in after everything was already shot as a way to shoehorn some exposition in.

    BTW Vern, I’m sad you didn’t mention here what I think is the best part of the movie — where Seagal kills the shit out of a house full of drug dealers who as far as I could tell have nothing to do with anything. It’s not just the randomness of the fight, but the weirdness — there’s this guy who wears a creepy mask for reason which are poorly explained, so when the time comes for Seagal to kill them all you think it’s gonna be a big fight between them, but nope. He’s dipatched just like the other goons, except when Seagal knocks his mask off, he shouts (paraphrase) “That’s no overdose, that’s syphilis!!” with a winning enthusiasm which the movie never recaptures. Also, an old lady counting money pulls a machine gun out of nowhere and screams at him, so he shoots her. Its the one sequence of truly outrageous, inspired DTV craziness in the whole movie, but people tend to neglect it because of Imelda and of course the fact that it apparently has no relation to anything else that happens anywhere in the movie. In my opinion its one of the most enjoyable and well-exected sequences of the DTV era.

  3. is it a crime to have and aka {harry LEE}..lik e some band’s thy hook you with one good hit show .Then bore you with there out dated acting and same old look’s.even in his cop show he’s and out of shape cop working the same corrupted sheriff gang squad’s in the old mafia town of metairy ,LA. {SEAGAL”S}ARE vulacure’s of the sea and sobe it steve is just as boring to meet in the O.P.P intake cell and no phone call’s to anyone.I”M and old live Performer he’ s and old movie star that droped out due to he’s steeling real people’s story’s.. in real life he’s and ass and badguy…*no acting just so poor old S.O.B.zzzz and “ONE LAST DRINK” some one to se in hell when you get there too>VERnon Lee Simpson victum just like nick o las cage’s is now in the same kind of frame’s for fame.and what will you o for US to get free….?

  4. AKA VERN SHADOWS drums singer,

    That is the most insanely incoherent thing I have ever read, but it almost seems real.

  5. Sifu, can you give me a lesson guy was a great opening scene. Fantastic way to start off the film. If only it could have contained that greatness.

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