Seagalogy Studies: The Page…
But the real attraction here is first-time director Steven Seagal, who also stars as Taft. I don’t know if you boys are familiar with Mr. Seagal’s other work, such as MARKED FOR DEATH and ABOVE THE LAW and OUT FOR JUSTICE and other movies with those same type of titles. He fights in what I call a Dolemite style, which means that he’s kinda fat and slow but they pretend he’s beating everybody anyway.
To be fair, there is a part where Seagal and Chestnut fight while swinging around on chains, Thunderdome style. That was pretty good. But otherwise Seagal tries to stay rested. As a result, there is not a whole lot of bloodshed.
Things get even worse for Yale’s most distinguished academician when he gets attacked at a restaraunt (why do thugs always flip over the tables before they start shooting?) and then at the assistant’s funeral. Plus they kill his wife! What a bunch of assholes! So he goes to the assistant’s dad and says, “The souls of our enemies will be ashes and dust gone in the sky before the funeral of our loved ones. That’s a promise.”
Anyway, most Seagalogists don’t care as much about the political type subtext as they do about the action. Seagal is just as slow and unconvincing as in all of his recent movies, and whenever “he” suddenly does a big spin kick or something without his face showing it is laugh out loud funny.
Unfortunately, OUT OF REACH is one of the shittiest pictures Seagal has ever made. It’s not as boring as THE FOREIGNER and maybe makes more sense than BELLY OF THE BEAST but the low quality of this one is pretty astounding. I mean say what you will about Seagal, but this is a guy who used to make real movies.
All he really does to investigate is look at a video and ask a couple people if they know anything, but coincidentally he bumps into a young Yakuza on the street and gets into a fight, beating them all senseless. Next thing you know the poor kid has to cut off his pinky as a “token of regret” and the bad guys are worried about this “American who grew up in Japan… apparently he is a sword master.”
There’s a little more gore than in recent Seagal pictures, but the same small amount of action. Just alot of shooting, a couple fake looking models exploding and a car chase that Seagal’s not even in where a car crashes into a watermelon truck. Seagal’s aikido looks completely unimpressive, but Vinnie Jones has one good fist fight.
Seagal has some funny moments though. He knocks on the front door at Max’s place and the security guy asks “Who are you?” He says, “Uh… Girl Scouts of America.” Okay, doesn’t sound good, but I liked his delivery. I wouldn’t say the same for his attempts at ebonics, though. Ice tells him he’s a cold motherfucker and he says, “Ice cool, ya’all.”
Anyway, I think fans will like this better than THE FOREIGNER because it’s not nearly as dull, but I gotta say that it’s equally complicated and mostly humorless. It’s also not as silly as the most entertaining Seagal pictures, but it definitely has its moments.
This is not my favorite type of Seagal picture. I wish he would get back into the intimate hand-to-hand on the street type of fighting. Instead the DTV era is more about traveling around to different countries tracking people down and then most of the action is machine guns and exploding cars.
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.
Before I was able to rent this one I got two emails telling me it was the worst movie Seagal had ever made, a real piece of shit. Both specified that they even enjoyed SHADOW MAN. Well, I think I see where they’re coming from. There’s just not enough Seagal in this movie.
In some ways the movie seems more competent than the last one, ATTACK FORCE. For example, we know they knew what the plot was before post-production, because it was already available on DVD as BLACK THUNDER. But in other ways you gotta wonder what the hell they were thinking.
URBAN JUSTICE is a huge leap ahead, a very enjoyable picture. Seagal has shown that he can make a good Charles Bronson type of picture. Next I think he should show that he can still make a good Steven Seagal type of picture.
Before anybody gets too excited, I should mention that nobody gets literally pistol whipped in this movie. That may be an oversight but I think the title is a play on the term “pussy whipped.” He’s henpecked by his pistol.
So as far as 5-year old DTV comedy that you watch with extremely low expectations, it’s passable, or at least gets over quickly. But looking at this thing through the eyes of a Seagalogist it’s more of a bust.
Seagal gets sole screenwriting credit, and while it’s not a very good story it does have a few memorable touches and variations on the usual Seagalogical scenarios. For the first time he has flashbacks not to some important experience in his career but to his childhood: he had a twin brother whose throat was slashed during a game of hide and seek.
What? You seemed pretty high on vengeance a minute ago when you shot that guy! Now you act like you’re hearing about it for the first time and you sympathize with the dude. See, this movie would be better if it either a) was good or b) had more ridiculous crap like that. But this is about all you get.
Seagal does try for a Russian accent throughout the movie (unlike in HALF PAST DEAD where he was also supposed to be Russian but only had a Kevin Costner level of dedication to the accent). I’m one of the bigger Seagal fans you will find but I have to admit that accents are more one of his hobbies than one of his talents.
THE KEEPER isn’t bad, but it’s not one of the movies where Seagal goes the extra mile. In fact, not even the full mile. His first lines of dialogue are dubbed by someone else, and there are several obvious uses of a back-of-the-head double. On the other hand, he completely owns the role of The Keeper, or at least the packaging claims so: STEVEN SEAGAL IS THE KEEPER.
“You know brother, where I come from the definition of death is emptiness. If that’s the case I’ve been dead for a long, long, long time.”
In fact there are so many of these type of lines, not to mention gratuitous boob shots, that it almost plays like the ultimate Seagal DTV movie in some ways. Just not my favorite ways.
MACHETE embraces absurd gore, exaggerated stereotypes and a cartoonish sense of reality, similar to BLACK DYNAMITE’s philosophy of stealing all the most awesome parts of blaxploitation but making them 10% more ridiculous. For what it is the tone is just about right. I think it’s a little closer to a Real Movie than PLANET TERROR was.
I’m not clear why he’s Born To Raise Hell, though. That doesn’t seem like an accurate description of his destiny or behavior. I suppose he could be Liable To Cause a Ruckus, but I wouldn’t go much further than that.
But like I said I had low expectations, and although obviously I’d like to see better from these two titans of DTV action I honestly thought it would be alot worse. You get a small sampler of their appeal. It’s watchable enough.