May 7, 2003
Starring: Tom Sizemore, Dennis Hopper, Steven Seagal, Jaime Pressly, Nas, Chris Astoyan, Rozonda Thomas, Peter Greene, Kevin Gage, Michael Halsey, Norbert Weisser, Romany Malco, Joe Spano, Mimi Rose, Tish Daniels,
Steven Seagal makes his triumphant return to the DVD arena and this time he swaps his trademark ponytail, black outfit and Zen preachings for a ponytail, black outfit and some, erm, Zen preachings. Yes, once again he’s playing a cop as well.
This time however he is in the bomb squad, but refers to them as devices, devices that need treating rather than diffusing. His technique for ‘treating’ devices? Why, he senses the workings of the device with his spiritualist karma of course.
This is Seagal at his most self indulgent, and fans of the portly one’s unique acting style will not be disappointed. Stevie displays the full range of emotions in his acting canon, from wooden to wooden. Then of course there’s wooden.
The film opens with a bomb threat at an ambassador’s residence which requires the portly one’s presence. Naturally by this stage in his career he needs to be airlifted in by chopper. A black clad stunt double abseils down a rope only to be replaced by the master of pastry goods just in time to spark off a chaotic shootout, in which the same guy is shot twice due to a lack of footage in the cutting room. They clearly thought no-one would notice, or care.
A large explosion naturally marks the end of the scene and sets the precedent for the rest of the film.
It’s at this point that we are introduced to Tom Sizemore’s character. Nettles is a cop, a cop that has just been busted down from Detective and he is accompanied by a wise cracking black partner name Fuzzy, played by rap star Naz. Every Seagal movie has a rap star and this one has two, as Ice T makes an appearance towards the end. Now Nettles isn’t some stereotypical clichéd action movie cop on the edge like so many others. His character introduction scene sees his partner shot and killed. His captain shouts at him constantly and tries to prevent him from investigating any cases. Oh yeah, and his family were killed by a car bomb.
Actually that’s pretty standard isn’t it?
So you’ve got your spiritualist bomb squad leader with a penchant for punching people in the throat, and you’ve got a rogue cop with nothing to live for. Surely you need some mad bomber to randomly blow things up and cause some emotive-on-wooden acting chemistry between the two leads? Enter Dennis Hopper, in a role not unlike the one he hammed his way through in Speed. His phone call taunts cause much pacing and threatening from Sizemore, and much sitting down and philosophising from Seagal. It really has to be seen to be believed.
So is there a plot to all of this? Well, no. Not really. You could try and cut it down to some narrative driven piece, but then that’s what the editors tried – and they failed. Dennis Hopper seems to be part of the IRA and sports what is probably the worst accent in motion picture history. His attempted Irish, for that is what I assume he is aiming for, fluctuates constantly into Jamaican, American and Scottish. At times he just doesn’t bother at all, but at least that fits with in with the rest of the film.
Each detonation of a bomb, and each shot of Hopper working on any explosives is accompanied by some Enya styled haunting Irish music to denote that it’s the Irish behind the carnage. This is offensive on every level. They further add to their insults when Seagal and Sizemore, who dislike each other at first but then grudgingly form a mutual respect, swap stories about their past traumatic experiences. Their tales of loss and sadness at the hands of mad bombers is accompanied by some slow American styled string music.
The emotive acting of Sizemore is amplified to the extreme when every reverse angled shot displays Seagal’s monotone facial expression. Seagal offers advice with words of wisdom like:
“Learn the nature of your own mind, that place between hope and fear”
It’s a wonder that Sizemore could keep a straight face, unless his visible stress was caused by visions of a once promising acting career disappearing down the toilet. Indeed if he ever actually watches this film and sees the flashback sequence they’ve cut in over his performance he may never work again on general principal. We accept that every clichéd cop movie needs a flashback, it’s part of the genre. If we didn’t have one it just wouldn’t work. It would be like fish without chips, or Seagal without a pony tail. But this flashback is way out in front in the race for most cheesy and derivative ever. Picture a wife and child walking down the path on the way to their car, then make it slow motion. Now add in some soft focus. Have them stop, turn around and wave every three steps and the wife point to the watching figure as if the child is unaware that he is there, then she repeats it. And again. At the end of the path have them stop, turn to each and high five. I swear I’m not making this up. Finally when they’re in the car have them point and smile once more before cutting to a dodgy model shot for an explosion.
The award for the cheesiest flashback in a low rent action movie goes to… Ticker.
I felt emotionally drained after seeing that. It reminded me of the flashbacks seen in the Naked Gun and Airplane! movies. But like some twisted game of top trumps Seagal had to go one better, oh yes. He discussed his past experiences as a special forces bomb disposal expert – what, you thought he wasn’t ex-special forces this time? Seagal put on his best emotive face and delivered peaches like:
“Things went sideways, lost some of my boys. But I made a choice to live, so I light candles for my boys that didn’t”
Add some American string music to the background and you’ve got Seagal at his finest. Once the emotive reminiscing is over they get down to some investigating, which reminds me of a tip I have for criminals. If you frequent nightclubs/bars/hotels don’t drop branded matchboxes from said establishments at the scene of any crime. Seagal will find them. Another well used cliché is wheeled out.
The obligatory narrative saving montage is slotted in, featuring a barrage of nonsensical explosions cut together as hoards of brave Americans suffer needlessly at the hands of Hopper’s relentlessly changing accents and some more haunting Irish ballads. Damn those Irish.
As this film hasn’t really been structured in any logical manner, and has been devoid of any kind of narrative thread or coherent scripting we approach the climax with our two heroes non the wiser as to what’s going on. Them and me both. Thankfully Sizemore happens to have a TV set on behind him that shows a big important building at the moment they’re pointing out how they don’t know what’s going on. Ah, that must be it then. The bomb has to be in there.
Cue lots of driving fast and donning of black masks to raid a building that no-one really knows is the right one. We are approaching the ninety minute mark though, the curfew for Seagal actioners, so we know it’s the right one. Seagal tells Sizemore to take the basement while he takes the roof in what is the most obvious plot device we’ve yet seen in a film. If you’re going to blow up a building where do you put the bomb, roof or basement? So seeing as Seagal is the bomb disposal guy, sorry ‘device treater’, he really should be taking the basement himself. Could we get a scenario where Seagal has to talk Sizemore through diffusing the bomb? I think so.
The film makers must have realised at this point that the portly one hasn’t yet been called into any neck breaking, bone crunching action. Unless you count his efforts off-set in the catering truck of course. It’s for this reason that they now tag on the requisite fight sequence where the portly one dispenses his own brand of Buddhist justice to a group of terrorist cronies that have been called in by Hopper just for the purpose of being beaten to a pulp by Seagal. See, there is method to this film.
Sure enough Sizemore finds the bomb in the basement and Seagal has to talk him through diffusing it, luckily they’ve pre-empted this by having Seagal showing him earlier how to fix his watch.
Fans of Seagal may be a little disappointed that he never fires his gun once, and only has the one fight scene. This scene too is badly shot using extreme close ups and a Steadicam to try to inject some life into the portly one’s otherwise now lifeless efforts.
As a film this falls just short of Seagal’s the Patriot, which puts it around number thirteen in the Seagal hall of fame of thirteen movies. Don’t be put off though for this Buddhist training film has much advise for young Grasshoppers such as:
“Death is just another stage on the playground” and “Love is eternal, and that’s a long time.”
The only special feature we’re treated to is the trailer, which surprisingly is unstructured and lacks direction. On watching that first I thought surely they could have cut a better trailer than that. I now realise that they couldn’t.
This is strictly for Seagal fans only, and even then you need to appreciate the big man’s more hidden talents. If you’re new to the portly one but like the idea of a film so bad it’s enjoyable, then give this a look.