this year’s steven seagal dtv entry is born to raise hell. much like his last few movies, and uwe boll movies, it’s shot in eastern europe, where things are cheaper. seagal is working with a first time director/former stuntman this time. he’s also credited as the sole screenwriter for the movie.
i have to admit, i haven’t actually seen that many of seagal’s dtv movies, and the only one we have on here is today you die. and that one came about right after i read vern’s thoroughly inspiring seagalogy and it happened to be on netflix instant. that was a nice throwback to the 80s low budget dtv action movies. the retro goofy charm has been replaced by coherent slickness.
seagal plays the leader of a u.s. drug task force in romania. i don’t know if you know but in case you missed it, drugs fund terrorists. in the opening scene, we see him leading a raid into a restaurant where we’re informed that his partner was killed and that they are sending him a new one, like your defective ipod or xbox. anyway, the guy behind the bar actually asks to see a warrant. it’s nice to know that things work the same way over there as here. to which, seagal, holding a shotgun, said “this is my warrant, bitch.”
in the mean time, we’re introduced to a gypsy drug runner who, of course, also runs a strip club, and the russian drug manufacturer who makes them in the basement of his mansion, with those background dancers from that robert palmer video.
the movie is actually more polished and crisp than i expected. maybe it’s because it’s shot with red one camera, the same ones used by steven soderbergh and the social network. the opening credits isn’t too different from your typical tony scott/bruckheimer movies.
maybe he’s improving as a writer, or having more confidence after shooting machete and having a tv show, there are actually a lot of good lines throughout the movie. like most writer/actor, he gave himself most of these lines, except for a few. during a drug deal between the russian (named dimitri of course) and the gypsy drug runner/rapist/murderer, the gypsy said his money is a little short, the russian replied “midgets are a little short, money, should never be.” i also like when seagal arrested the russian guy, he asked him why he’s there instead of chasing the real bad guys in afghanistan, seagal answered “i’ve already done that, now i’m here having fun.” so at least in some alternate made up universe, that mission was actually accomplished.
i don’t know if he really did have fun during the shoot but he does seem more animated in this than other movies i’ve seen or read about.
it will surely be disappointing to hardcore action and seagal fans though since the action scenes are shot and edited in the same manners of the expendables where you can hardly see the whole piece of the action. i don’t know how often he used stunt doubles but most of the time you see an arm or a leg and the person getting hit in the frame, then a quickcut to the aftermath. there are also a lot of guns being used, which is not really why people see seagal movies. the focus here seems to be more along the lines of his tv show of raids and investigations than pure action. the opening voice over may have been dubbed, which happens quite often in his recent dtv movies. he also disappears for quite a long time halfway through the movie so the movie can focus on the russian and the gypsy. except this time the two villains are actually interesting enough so it wasn’t a bore. in fact, i think the fact that the villains have interesting stories is what makes the movie better than most seagal dtv movies. the final scene was surprisingly effective.
as a sidenote, villains in action movies used to draw the line at drugs. now the drug making villian is actually the “good” bad guy and the real bad guy has to rape and kill and traffic drugs. way to go, multitasking human.
other than the quick cut/random editing, i supposed i could also complain about the fact that his girlfriend/wife in the movie looks more like his daughter(which only brings to mind his recent lawsuit). or the random breasts montages that serve no purpose. or the shortened version of that al pacino being a cop speech from heat. or the new replacement sidekick who’s about to be a father. or the subtitle shows up karaoke style in the middle of the screen to cater to the retarded twitter/chat generation. but these are pretty popular nowadays even in big hollywood tentpole movies so it wouldn’t be fair to fault this movie. it would be fair, however, to mention the hilarious sex scene during which seagal is fully clothed and the actress is naked, not that anyone would want to see him in a naked sex scene. i guess it shows that he’s more self aware than tommy wisseau. and seagal running with a shotgun then flinch when firing said shotgun scenes. but overall, the laughable scenes and wtf moments are way down compare to his other recent efforts. ok the title sucks too, it could have been called on deadly ground, the foreigner or a dangerous man and it wouldn’t have made any difference. oh, and no motorhead song was used in the film.
shot in four weeks right after machete, maybe it’s because of a new director, maybe i was just in the right mood, or maybe it’s the wine talking, it’s absolutely better than i expected. hell, with a few tweaks here and there, it probably could have been the next luc besson produced blockbuster.
p.s. the seattle born stuntman/first time director lauro chartrand will go on to direct steven seagal in the tv series true justice, which still has no release date in the u.s. he was also married to nia peeples, who appears in our watchlist for the asylum version of battle los angeles.