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15 years ago Steven Seagal was one of Americas biggest action stars, the ironic alternate to Arnie and Sly quickly gathering a cult following as he trashed Brooklyn in all his movies. His no nonsense busting heads approach in his first few efforts not only made him a few quid but a sizeable following, especially on the East Coast. After Scorsese, De Palma and Coppola made the mafia cool and nasty once again pretty much every Italian American actor was working in the eighties off the back of it, most of them in ending up in low budget movies with actors like muscle head Segal.
Today Seagal has gone all native Indian and eco warrior, preferring to play guitar in his band Thunderbox over making seriously slick shoot-em-ups films like he used to. He actually did a 30 date tour in the UK last year, a rather sheepish lead guitar. Therefore his film work has been neglected and now he knocks out two low budget tax dodge movies a year to subsidize his various foundations and his musical ambitions.
In this early box set we have the three movies that would eventually tee up the Segal peak of Under Seige in 1992, a height that the six-four actor would never touch again. Looking on Amazon its noticeable just how many box set variations there are for this guy and its almost as if you can write into his website and select your own, pick n mix style. This one contains Hard to Kill, Nico, and Out for Justice. Not his best three films but certainly the ones that sum up the aikido specialist actor at his most supple and effective. Seagals latest movies show a very different and chubby actor who relies more on a corset than acting skills to get through the ninety minutes. The fact he called one of his recent movies the Belly of the Beast is a rather unfortunate title that sums up his physical condition today. Thats why you guys should only watch his older stuff in box-sets like this.
Film One: OUT FOR JUSTICE
My Rating: 7/10
Directed by John Flynn
Seagal plays Gino Felino, a no nonsense Brooklyn detective who has the respect of both the citizens and local Mafia to keep things in order. In the first ten minutes of the movie he puts a pimp (a one Martin Lawrence) through the window to make that very point. But when an out of control mobster Ritchie Modona (William Forsythe), high on cocaine and booze, cuts Ginos partner down in cold blood in a Godfather style hit by the fruit cart in front of his wife and kids, neighborhood justice must be served. The Mob wants to take him down the old way, whilst Gino wants to do Ritchie his way, honoring his partner. Whoever wins one thing is for sure: Gino and the Mob are going to wreck Brooklyn trying. This was not the days of CCTV and number plate recognition folks!
The most notable thing in this movie is accomplished actor William Forsyths appearance with his bizarre 1920s Brylcream hair style. With centre parting, manicured mustache and huge gut he reminds you of one of the villains from the prewar black & white movies. The angry husband with a pistol in those classic Laurel & Hardy shorts comes to mind.
The best fight scene is in the local mob bar, Segal breaking heads with pool balls and the queues; taking out twenty bad guys like only he can, followed by a French Connection style chase through Brooklyn.
This is surprisingly one of his most highly rated Segal movies, one revered film almanac giving in four and a half stars out of five, and incredibly more than Star Wars rates in the same book! Its certainly not that good but an example of that Brooklyn style of violent movie that Scorsese and Mean Streets born us.
Segal was softened up in the movie to get him ready for mainstream cinema. He is divorced in the film, of course, as all flawed heros are, but he has to have a little puppy in his police car to make him appeal more to women, which you can safely say he doesnt. Bad call Mr Director.
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Film Two: NICO
My Rating: 6/10
Directed by Andrew Davis
Its noticeable (or not) that the film Nico rarely features in film review books. Its not that its particularly bad or anything but just doesnt show up on the celluloid radar anymore. It was released in America as Above the Law, but still rare to find. Its also strange to see the beautiful and sexy Sharon Stone showing up as Seagals misses; anything but the goodtime girl she usually plays, all but invisible here as the demure housewife.
Segal plays Nico, his ubiquitous local heroic cop character again, busting heads in pursuit of his own style of justice. Along with Detective Dolores choice (a fittingly blacksploitation name for Pam Grier here), his partner on the streets of Manhattan, the two always get their man, here on the trial of smuggled C4 explosives.
Its the first Seagal movie to garnish him with a Special Forces background, here an ex covert Green Beret operative Ricardo Nico, a plot mechanism to tie him in with a CIA hit squad that have targeted his manner to kill a US senator investigating their activities in Nam. It seems a priest has a secret that the rogue CIA guys dont want anyone to know about and so prepared to blow him up at the pulpit. But with Nico on their trail and trained in the same forms of combat and cop movie clichés they have no chance.
Seeing sexy Pam Grier and Sharon Stone looking plane and is just plain disappointing. Its very much a case of one star on the up and one on her way down. But could Sharon Stone become the new Pam Grier, the way things are going after the dire Basic Instinct 2. Tarrantino could be watching! Also, its films like this that you realize just how many people out there are working as bit part actors.
Its directed by Andrew Davies, who broke his teeth in knucklehead action flicks. In fact he has dentures now as he has made so many in this genre. The Fugitive and Holes are his best so far.
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Film Three: HARD TO KILL
My Rating: 7/10
Directed by Bruce Malmuth
This is my favorite of the three early films on offer here, Seagals first movie where he is prepared to wear vulnerability on screen like he does his extremely tight trousers.
Seagal plays Mason Storm, a big shot cop who hates fellow corrupt cops as much as the bad guys. On Oscar night, after foiling a drug store robbery, he starts to uncover some internal corruption at his police station. That means its time for him to be clipped, a dodgy US candidate for the Senate (Bill Sadler), who is involved, having to order his clipping, some thuggish hitmen foolishly but surprisingly effectively trying to take him and his family out in the martial bed, blasting Storm into a coma and his wife through the wall, only their small son avoiding the carnage.
When Mason comes out of the coma some seven years later he knows his secret location will soon be compromised, only his retired ex sergeant looking out for him by faking Storms death back then, a very corrupt police department, via Internal Affairs, keen to hear hes awake before anyone else does, another hit man soon dispatched. With the help of sexy English nurse Kelly LeBrock he escape the hospital the goons are heading for and convalesces in her secluded location, Storm always believing his son is dead. But hes not and that spurs him on to take revenge and get fit, anyone involved in the case soon turning up dead. With some intense martial arts training in the hidden locale, those squawking eagles suggesting hes ready, Storm is soon up and about and fighting fit. But once the saxophone soundtrack kicks in you know hes going to get it on with sexy Kelly before the killing begins. Trust me; you dont want to see a Steven Seagal love scene.
It was great to see Kelly LeBrock again and she did look good. Who will ever forget her in Weird Science, boys!
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No extras here but a fun DVD box set for fans who want to see the old classics that for some reason are rarely shown on terrestrial TV. If you think of the distinct dearth of modern day action heros you have to say Steve Seagal was uniquely violent and the best fun when o top form. No cracking jokes, just heads, and thats the way it should be.
Other Seagal films
Marked for Death (1990)
Under siege (1992)
On Deadly Ground (1994)
Under Siege 2 (1995)
Executive Decision (1996)
The Glimmer Man (1996)
Fire Down Below (1997)
The Patriot (1998)
Exit Wounds (2001)
Half Past Dead (2002)
Out for a Kill (2004)
The Foreigner (2003)
Black Dawn (2006)
Attack Force (2007)
Action icon Steven Seagal is featured in the eight explosive films of this collection. The set includes Nico (AKA Above The Law), Out for Justice, Under Siege, Under Siege 2, The Glimmer Man, Eexecutive Decision, Fire Down Below, and Exit Wounds.