The Glimmer Man
November 30, 2003
Ahh, Steven Seagal, aka, ‘The Portly One’, how I love you! How much pleasure have I derived from your films over the years? Oh trembling hand let me respond! Too much! Thou art a God!
On the other hand…
How much of my life have I wasted away, glued to the screen in masochistic delight at how terrible each and every one of your films are? Too much! Thou art appalling!
And that is the heart of the problem with Steven Seagal movies: those that enjoy them value the very qualities his critics deride. On many occasions I have read negative reviews of Mr Seagal’s work, wherein the critique has pointed out all the reasons why a particular film is so poor: bad acting, even worse dialogue, numerous plot holes, indeed, no plot at all, action movie cliché upon action movie cliché and a general apathy and incompetence towards the entire filmmaking process. However, a positive review may well include, even revel, in the same qualities.
So how can such differing points of view be reconciled so that we can all enjoy the unique movie-watching experience that Steven Seagal provides? I suggest using a technique described by George Orwell in his novel ‘1984’; the technique of Doublethink.
Doublethink is defined as the power to hold two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accept both of them.
So let us apply this technique to the films of Steven Seagal and see what happens.
Consider the following two statements:
Steven Seagal is a terrible actor.
Steven Seagal is a great actor.
Both statements contradict each other, yet, in order to fully appreciate Stevie’s movies, we must accept both as true. I certainly have no problem doing that. Obviously I can accept the first statement, for no one acts at the, ahem, level of StevieO, but the second? Well yes, in my more lateral moments, I have often come to think that Seagal has transcended all others and reached an acting plateau all his own. So no problem with these two.
Let’s try two others.
Steven Seagal makes wonderful movies.
Steven Seagal makes appalling movies, each even worse than the last.
Again, both are undoubtedly true. You may initially struggle with the first, but if you do I suggest watching a few Chuck Norris movies then sit down to Hard to Kill and you’ll soon get the necessary perspective.
Managing it now? OK, then we’ll try this last one.
Steven Seagal is an overweight pompous twit, always dressing in black to disguise his growing bulk, inflicting his yearly cinematic drivel upon the world and always coming over so arrogant in interviews with his talk of “intelligence services” and working for the CIA. I mean, what gives with this guy? He is so far up his own arse his ponytail grows out of his colon.
You’ve got the hang of it now right? Easy!
And in fact, once you get used to this filmic technique of Doublethink, you can start applying it to all sorts of movies.
Pretty much every film of Jean Claude Van Damme for instance; the post-1987 career of Steve Martin; the entire directing life of Brian DePalma; the list is endless! Suddenly movies that you would sit there aghast at, cursing that anyone could make such tripe you can now thoroughly enjoy. In fact, I have recently managed this myself with the Sylvester Stallone masterpiece that is Judge Dredd. For years I deprived myself of its pleasures, but no more.
Oh, sweet Sly how could I have ever doubted you!
So now that you’ve got the hand of filmic Doublethink we can move on to The Glimmer Man.
First, let me say this: The Glimmer Man is Steven Seagal’s best movie. Now I know I’ve hit you with a tough first one to get Doublethink around, but try, it’s worth it.
The Glimmer Man is his best movie because it gives you everything you could want in a stupid genre action movie: loads of action, fistfights, car chases, explosions etc.; buddy-buddy mismatched Cops who, after some initial resentment, grow to mutual respect; eminently dumb yet quotable dialogue (“You are one mysterious motherfucker!”); an overcomplicated plot that actually makes no sense; and of course that staple of genre action flicks, crap acting.
These are the reasons I love The Glimmer Man so much and keep returning to it, for it has all those action movie clichés in full; not one is missed out. And as a bonus, it also contains Steve’s greatest ever acting moment, a scene of such raw power that, for, ooh, about one second, he almost convinces us.
After a particularly bad day (do LA Cops ever have any other?) he returns to his current wife to tell her that his ex-wife has been killed by a serial killer and “I got to go and tell my kids that their mother is dead.’ And all the anguish and emotion that you imagine someone would feel when faced with this moment is summed up by Seagal in an expression that, in all honesty, looks like his haemorrhoids have started to bleed. Truly priceless! Even better than Seagal’s “What does it take to change the essence of a man?” speech from On Deadly Ground.
Plot wise, The Glimmer Man is so great because it is actually three different plots rolled into one and none of them makes any sense or indeed is any good. It starts in a Seven style serial killer flick, with Seagal transferred to the LAPD from the NYPD, because, as he says, “I didn’t get on with my captain, I figured it was time for a change, the ex moved out here with the kids…” but soon ditches that for a corrupt businessman works alongside the Russian mafia plot. But, in order to make it not look like these two lame plots are totally unrelated, we also have a hitman who works for the businessman that disguises his killings in the style of said serial killer. Wow! But of course that doesn’t convince, so they throw in a THIRD plot with Seagal and his old boss from ‘Nam who is now a shady CIA bigshot and is trying to have Seagal killed, but it turns out he’s actually working alongside the corrupt businessman and the Russian mafia himself to sell illegal arms to Serbian freedom fighters in order to get rich! It’s all too much! And of course all these plots work against each other and never flow so the movie ends up disjointed and patchy. But of course that’s what makes it so great! Remember your Doublethink!
But what of Seagal, I hear you ask? That great ponytailed, Buddhist spouting, bead wearing lump that lurches about the screen, struggling even to walk in a convincing manner? Is he on form in The Glimmer Man? Of course not! He’s awful! He’s even worse than he was in Under Siege 2 and, my God, he was bad in that! But of course that’s what is so good about him; Seagal is so preposterous one cannot but enjoy him. How Steven Seagal ever got to act in a film is a miracle and confirmation of God’s existence! But I still love him; employ that Doublethink!
Other great qualities that make The Glimmer Man so good are the list of clichés that it trots out. Consider the following: a bad tempered Police captain; a car chase culminating in an explosion with a gas tanker; a climatic Seagal versus bad guy fistfight; and one that’s a standard in all Seagal movies – his mysterious past. In fact this last one gives the movie its title. Corrupt CIA man: “Suffice to say, to the people he hunted for us, he was known as the Glimmer Man. They’d be nothing but jungle, then a glimmer, then you’d be dead!” But how the hell did anyone know this if Seagal always killed them?!
Another superb quality of The Glimmer Man that you have to use Doublethink to appreciate is that it is full of matching action errors. In a conversation with Keenen Ivory Wayans, in one shot Seagal is glum, in the next he’s smiling. Yet the editor cuts them together anyway! Did he think we wouldn’t notice?
And with Seagal’s climatic fistfight the badguy’s bloody make-up keeps changing, shot to shot.
Shame though that the speeded up footage from Under Siege 2 is little used here, just the occasional slow shoulder throw from Seagal that needed a little post production help.
But it’s the constant action in The Glimmer Man that makes it such a good movie. Seagal’s later work has been small on action but large on his waistline, and has suffered as a result. No such problems with The Glimmer Man though, it delivers those action scenes in spades. Hardly a minute goes by when Steve isn’t busting some guy’s chops or breaking an arm or two. They even throw in some great new ways for Steve to dispatch those mafia guys; check out the razor-blade credit card! And he keeps talking about how he is a Buddhist, even when he’s impaling some badguy onto the forklift of a JCB! (Doublethink, doublethink!)
And what about those beads and jackets?! And the lack of any chemistry between Seagal and Wayans? And Seagal’s soft-spoken voice and understanding manner before he breaks some heads?
It’s all so marvellous!
My favourite lines:
“You know you shouldn’t knock Chinese potions. I have something in my pocket that will completely clear up that bruise on your forehead.”
Seagal punches him square in the head.
Delivered by Seagal totally deadpan: “This individual gives me the impression that he is a freelancer, hiding his targets in the scenario of a serial killer, likes a .22, likes head-shots, seems to be inflicting constant wounds on the victims after they’re dead, and has excellent cleaning skills.”
“Sun Tzu. Just keeps getting stranger.”
And of course, “You are one mysterious motherfucker!”
Ahh, The Glimmer Man.
Watch this movie, you will love it. And if you don’t; Doublethink. It’s what Hollywood needs from you.