Sunday, August 17, 2014


I have lately been watching some Steven Seagal movies. I had seen a couple. I was rather fond of "On Deadly Ground", and Of "Fire Down Below". In those, Seagal was some manner of elite operative looking after the environment. The former takes place in Alaska, and the latter in Kentucky. Other than that they are more or less the same movie, which is not a bad thing. I like them. I guess Fire Down Below has the edge since it's a little less preachy about the environment.

I had never managed to see either Seagal's early work or his late work. Over the last few days, I've seen some of both. In "Out For Justice", something like Seagal's fourth film, he plays a Brooklyn cop who clashes with the mob. It's one of those 'we all grew up in the neighborhood' movies. It's not at all bad. Seagal tries a little hard to convince us of a Brooklyn Italian accent. He also somehow is the worst at running. You wouldn't expect that of a martial arts guy, but he looks awful running.

He didn't stay in the kind of shape where you'd even ask him to run long. He was already rather past his physical peak by the time of "Under Siege", his biggest hit. It's still a pretty fun time, however much that may be owed to the film's villains and supporting cast (which include Gary Busey and Tommy Lee Jones). This was Seagal's moment, and he sure made the most of it. You see in this film Seagal's inability to be down even for a second. It's a problem for dramatic conflict.

"Exit Wounds" is probably Seagal's last bearable film as a lead. He's a Detroit cop who gets busted down to traffic duty before uncovering a criminal conspiracy that reaches inside his own department. The film throws in some fun stuff, like an anger management subplot featuring Tom Arnold, who is one of three or four supporting characters who momentarily seem like they're going to be Seagal's improbable sidekick. Ultimately it's a fun film.

I wish I had not finished this cycle with "Half Past Dead". It is the worst. I'm usually good about finding the good in movies, but this one didn't have much. Seagal is an undercover Russian in a new Alcatraz prison where a guy who stole and hid a bunch of gold is going to be executed. A guy who wants that gold busts in to find out where, and the whole thing is very murky. It's literally murky visually, with low light constantly masking Seagal's physical condition. This movie is bad, man. It's one of the few films I've seen that made me angry.

I'm left with many gaps in Seagal's career, and I think that filling in some of them will be rather pleasant. I still have some three early Seagal films, a number of midrange Seagals and all too many late Seagal movies. I don't promise that I'll ever get to those. If I do, it will be out of real desperation after I've watched all the other action hero movies. Hopefully that won't happen for a long time, when I'm old and gray and have a family of my own.

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