my luck with steven seagal movies is surprisingly similar to the asylum movies. i would watch one and kind of enjoy it but when i try to go for seconds, they always disappoint. i am slowly realizing that it’s best to watch a seagal or an asylum movie once every few months. it’s never good to binge on anything, especially when it comes to the cinematic arts of seagal or the asylum.
after the somewhat enjoyable belly of the beast, i thought i should follow it up with another seagal movie, driven to kill from 2009. it’s not an entirely random pick though. on the dvd cover, there is a little tag on the bottom right corner: “they took his daughter, so he’s taking them down.” they could have used the same line for belly of the beast, which came out five years before taken. driven to kill was shot before taken was released in the u.s., so it’s hard to say if it’s a direct rip-off. it was released in the u.s. a few months after taken became a huge hit, so there is no doubt that driven to kill tried to cash in on it, especially since they are both released by fox. in some posters, taken has the tag “they’ve taken his daughter. now, he’s taking them down.” rip-off maybe over-dramatizing it since the premise of a father rescuing a kidnapped (estranged) daughter has been around since the golden age of western. there’s also the fact that the similarity ends with that premise.
unlike the usual ex-something seagal characters or liam neeson in taken, the main character ruslan (the original/better title for the film) is a former russian mobster who is now a crime novelist living in california. yes, seagal plays a writer and a russian, a russian writer. a russian writer in california. a russian writer who speaks mostly in english. seagal plays a writer who speaks with a russian accent.
i know they really want a three word title but maybe they should have saved the title for a seagal/stallone pre-remake-boot-sequel called driven2kill.
like woody allen, he writes awkwardly on the computer, with his hands never look quite right on the keyboard. like allen, we also see him walking on the street getting grocery carrying a paper bag, with just small enough of a bag that we see some grocery stuff sticking out, so we know he went grocery shopping. i think they use flowers instead of the traditional french bread, which i appreciate. also like allen, ruslan has a younger girlfriend*, who entices him to show her a mafia trick from his book with a threesome. his girlfriend looks young enough to be his daughter…er…step-daughter…adopted daughter.
thankfully we don’t see the promised threesome. but the scene ends with the immortal line when seagal explains how he does the trick: “just to not give a fuck.” is it some kind of warning to the audience? a meta self-referential attitude during his d-t-v era? it could go either way, or maybe both. whatever it is, it takes balls for them to write it into the movie. and despite the tagline, his daughter isn’t really taken, at least not literally. while he does take them down, i don’t recall a huge explosion in russia in the movie, you would have to watch mission: impossible: 4: ghost: protocol for that.
the rest of the movie though, doesn’t give you much to ponder over. ruslan travels to new jersey for his daughter’s wedding. she’s a d.a. marrying the son of a russian mafia head. coincidentally, said head was in the same russia mafia ruslan was in! a poorly planned scheme leads to ruslan’s daughter being in a coma and his ex-wife killed. one may say that his daughter is hard to kill. and now ruslan is out for justice like he’s above the law.
one thing i like about the movie is that instead of bending things to fit a seagal movie, it feels more like the story and the character of ruslan is driving the movie. it’s more about a former russian mobster than seagal kicking ass. there’s an encounter early on where he takes care of a couple of russian mob kids in a restaurant that is more hardcore than what the usual seagal action hero would have reacted, and this is before his daughter is TAKEN. there’s also a scene in a pawn shop that’s way more extreme that the usual seagal character. i also like the police interrogation scene where he asks the detective if she wants him to sign her book. ruslan even hit on his ex-wife in russian right next to her current husband.
the film also somewhat successfully builds up the villains. there are a couple of characters that we know for sure are the bad guys but we don’t know just how many characters are involved in the scheme. like a lot of the later seagal movies, the movie seems to be going for the seagal with a partner type instead of the seagal the lone wolf going in to kick the bad guys’ asses. but they kind of forget about it and his partner disappears for a while. but this thread does give us the single wtf moment when ruslan and his partner (his almost/aspiring son-in-law) go to a strip club in a private room right after a bloodbath.
one major problem is that seagal uses guns (and knives) way more than martial arts and combats. and all the action scenes are shot in mostly post-action avid fart shaky cam ways. the medium shot-close up-medium shot-aftermath structure. it’s not as bad as say michael bay movies but the action sequences are not as comprehensible as belly of the beast. there are decent amount of action scenes and there are more gore than most seagal movies but the way they are shot, it’s almost like they are censoring themselves as they go along.
most of my fellow reviewers seem to give the movie a pass. yes, the action scenes are better than quite a few of seagal’s d-t-v era movies, and the movie looks better than some of his lower budget ones. it doesn’t seem to have as much obvious stunt doubles and dubbed voices (it may have something to do with this being seagal’s first movie for fox, after a long contract with sony). but most of them watched this after against the dark (which seagal is more of a supporting character than the lead, and it’s a passable d-t-v horror movie and a bad seagal movie). unfortunately i watch this after belly of the beast, so there’s a different kind of expectation. as far as d-t-v seagal goes, it’s better than against the dark and probably flight of fury, but not as entertaining as out for a kill. it’s just a tad below belly of the beast. i would put it on par with born to raise hell and today you die.
director jeff king previously directed seagal in kill switch, which from what i heard, has even worse post-action/avid fart/shaky cam. he also directed stone cold steve austin in damage. one of the first credit we see at the end of the movie listed joe halpin as executive consultant. halpin worked with seagal on into the sun, attack force, flight of fury, urban justice, shadow man, mercenary for justice, pistol whipped, against the dark, the keeper, born to raise hell, and tv’s true justice. he also wrote the art of war iii: retribution, the one with seagal’s today you die co-star treach from naughty by nature instead of wesley snipes.
in an attempt to manipulate your expectation, the trailers on the dvd includes modern classics such as x-men origins: wolverine, 12 rounds, street fighter: the legend of chun-li, wrong turn 3, and the marine ii.
*it’s not rare that the male lead has a younger girlfriend in movies. but it gets kind of bizarre here that his current girlfriend, his ex-wife, and his daughter are all played by actresses born in 1980 and 1981. at least there is the female detective and an asian doctor who’s not interested in ruslan romantically. and as i mentioned, there’s thankfully no sex scenes in the movie.
bad movie knights were driven to kill
direct to video connoisseur was driven to kill
the film fiend was driven to kill
lurple.com was driven to kill
vern (seagalogy) was driven to kill
Search for Driven to Kill on CanIStream.It