A duty to protect. A hunt for vengeance.
Back of DVD:
A hardcore Interpol agent (Steven Seagal) is assigned to an Eastern European task force to target gun traffickers and drug barons that operate throughout the Balkans. While investigating a Russian gun dealer, his team is caught in a bloody street war between a Gypsy gang and the Russians, leaving one task force member dead. Fuelled with vengeance, he embarks on an deadly mission to settle the score with the ruthless criminals that took his friend's life.
Man I love Steven Seagal. He is a constant source of entertaining DTV action movies. Sure some are way better than others (Urban Justice is far better than Attack Force) but the guy goes out there once, twice sometimes three times a year and makes 90 minutes of solid action for the punters. Most people left Seagal back when he had a ponytail during Under Siege, or at a stretch, Under Siege 2. I'm as much to blame as anyone for that, and to Mr. Seagal if you are reading - I am sorry for losing my faith. You did all the collaboration-with-rappers movies that were popular in the late 90's and I just tuned out. Then as far as I was aware you faded into obscurity.
But no, he was out there, keeping it real on VHS and DVD. He cut his hair and put on some weight, but that happens to the best of us. And besides he's been a cop for twenty years, all they eat are donuts and frown on long hair so is he really to blame? He did get gradually lazier with his martial arts on screen and even line delivery, employing some pretty average post-production dubbing and obvious stunt doubles, but his last few movies have been correcting that issue adequately. The man also knows his range and sticks by it, which I applaud. Whilst other action heroes like Jean-Claude Van Damme and Arnold Schwarzenegger have tried to mix it up a bit, Seagal has stayed true to his capabilities. This could say a lot about JCVD and Arnie as their ventures outside pure action have generally, in my opinion, been a success (Hmm, well Twins was fun but Jingle All the Way?), but it does say a lot about Seagal who knows what he can do and knows what his fans want. Though let's try and forget Against the Dark, shall we?
I could talk about Seagal for ages but Vern did it much better than I could in his excellent book Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal, which I urge everyone to read. This is Seagal's latest movie Born to Raise Hell. Another classy title that doesn't really fit the subject matter (Pistol Whipped, anyone?) but the movie generally ticks all the right boxes.
- Seagal is holding a pistol on the cover and looking determined.
- The movie was filmed in an Eastern European country, this time Romania.
- He is an Interpol agent.
- He is involved with a number of drug busts.
- He goes to a strip club. That's owned by a drug dealer.
- His partner gets killed. Twice.
- He avenges the dead partners by breaking the law.
- He has a wife half his age and we have to watch them have awkward sex.
- A grenade causes a fireball explosion that isn't CG.
- Girls with machine guns.
One of the boxes that shouldn't be ticked but is, is the dubbing and stunt double usage box. I personally didn't notice the dubbing but other reviewers have so I guess it's there. The stunt double is fairly obvious and out of the four main fights is in two of them. This means Born to Raise Hell is a step back from A Dangerous Man which I don't remember having much if any of either, but at least it is nowhere near as bad as Out for a Kill. Still, any dubbing is pretty inexcusable when he did both write and produce the movie. Surely he could have gotten it right during filming.
On with the movie itself. It starts in Bucharest, Romania and instantly it is obvious we will be treated to that familiar ADD style of editing. Lot's of pauses, flashes, intentionally skipped frames, typing sounds when text crawls onto the screen etc. See my review of The Contractor for another movie that suffers from this. Luckily though it does peter out a bit after the first act, though never entirely. Seagal works at a drug taskforce headquarters and according to the monologue his job has become harder since September 11, 2001 as terrorists attacks are funded by drug sales. His partner was killed six months earlier and he "will find who was responsible". He is being assigned a new partner today and they go on a drug bust.
They break into the suspects apartment and after ordering their weapons dropped ("Mother fucker I'm speaking English!") Seagal reprimands his new partner for not securing the scene. One guy tries to escape by driving his motorbike - which was inside the house - out the front window. Seagal kicks him down and the bike smashes out the window with no driver. Taking the suspect back to headquarters, Seagal learns of two lots of bad guys out there. One is a top level drug manufacturer, Dimitri, who uses gorgeous supermodels to smuggle his drugs through airports, and the other is a drug dealer, Costel, who favours violent home invasions to steal money to buy drugs from the other guy. The suspect cuts a deal to lead Seagal's team to Dimitri and send him in as bait. It goes a bit pear shaped and Seagal has to break a few noses and throw a guy through a park bench.
Seagal is pretty unfazed through the whole movie, though this does work to his advantage in delivering some dry humour. Seagal finally arrests Dimitri on little more than possession of a deadly weapon. Dimitri has played this game before and in an effort to prove police brutality to expedite a quick release, smashes his own head into the car window. Seagal says nothing more than "Damn. This arsehole will bleed on my seats." Champagne comedy, Steve!
The second act of the movie is actually focussed more on the brewing conflict between Dimitri's gang of mainly hot women with machine guns and Costel's gang of three-day-old growth slimeballs. I know who I'd root for and eventually it gets to boiling point after Costel kills Dimitri's wife. Seagal is absent for a lot of this, but thankfully does feature prominently in the third act.
It's not obvious that the new partner will die until one moment when he tells Seagal that his wife is pregnant. That's like showing photos of your kids, running up stairs in a horror movie or wearing a red shirt on Star Trek. The guy is as good as dead and soon gets gunned down by Costel's thugs. Now we have both Seagal and Dimitri out for blood, and in a gentlemanly agreement, they work together to take down Costel and his associates.
Although I did say that there was a stunt double in this, Seagal does still kick arse and take names, especially in the fights without the double (or less obvious use of the double). Plenty of patented Seagal Slap-fu in this movie, a few snapped arms and guys thrown into walls. He tries to go to dinner with his twenty-something year old wife and gets attacked. After beating everyone senseless he says to his wife "This is why I don't like to eat out." Brilliant! Then they have extremely awkward, sweaty sex in which Seagal doesn't even take his jacket off. Man I wish he would stop doing these scenes, but at least they are funny.
So this is a by-the-numbers Seagal DTV action flick. I was only mildly disappointed in that it wasn't as good as A Dangerous Man from 2009, or Driven to Kill aka Ruslan from 2009, but it was better than The Keeper... from 2009 (a busy year evidently for Steven). Go in to this with the standard Seagal DTV expectations and you'll have a good time.
On a related note, check out this pretty funny fake Seagal movie poster site. I really liked Under Siege X: "Casey Ryback was cryogenically frozen by the government to protect our future." Now THAT sounds like an awesome movie.
Same as all his other recent ones. Filmed in digital HD and as clear as a whistle with a pounding soundtrack.
Amazon.co.uk on pre-order for about six pounds.