The conviction of newly released straight-to-video action movie fight-fest Maximum Conviction was never in doubt. The film is set in a prison, after all. But its maximumness? That’s raised a few questions. I’m in the question answering business, so I sat down to watch the film to see just how maximum it was. The answer is that it was surprisingly maximum. In fact, it was so maximum that I felt compelled to list the 10 most maximum things about it. Why 10? Because it’s the maximum the editors would allow me.
How many violent Stevens can one action film handle? I’ve always assumed the answer to be one, but Maximum Conviction brings us both ‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin and ‘Stone Colder’ Steven Seagal.
Former pro-wrestler Steve Austin plays Manning, who is working alongside Steven Seagal’s Cross on closing down a secret high security prison. They take in two more prisoners the night before they’re due to close the site for good, on the agreement that they be collected the next day along with the other remaining prisoners. But villainous bastards have their own plans for one of the new admissions and attempt to take over the prison using big guns and merciless bashing. Unfortunately for them, much like myself, they also underestimated just how many violent Stevens an action films can contain, and soon find themselves overmatched and in tremendous pain.
When Steven Seagal tells Steve Austin that he’s the man he goes to when he needs someone to have his back, we understand this to be a sign of respect, but also of friendship. Friendship is one of the recurring themes of Maximum Conviction.
Seagal spends time at a bar with his team of highly trained tough guys before the villains turn up, and as this is happening Austin finds himself stuck at work, no doubt frustrated to be missing out on a final bonding session with his colleagues. The good guys work together and for each other as the villains start to cause chaos, and we as the audience are left in no doubt that they doing this because they are friends, and because they want to slaughter the villains. But mostly because they are friends.
In contrast, the villains are rude towards one another and don’t exhibit any signs of camaraderie. As soon as things start to go badly for them, they start shouting at one another and begin to fall apart. Without wishing to stray too far into spoiler territory, I suspect that it’s a lack of friendship and social skills that leads to their ultimate undoing. Well, that and the previously mentioned pair of violent Stevens.
Maximum bone breaking
Oh God, no.
Maximum neck damage
Straight-to-video action films are often accused of being a bit samey. The people who make this accusation are clearly often pale-skinned art-house enthusiasts who consider plot variation to be a different combination of family members engaging in incest in black and white dramas that run for 17 hours, so we really shouldn’t entertain their nonsense. That said, it’s obviously important for films such as Maximum Conviction to find ways to differentiate themselves, so that they stand out in their crowded market place.
Maximum Conviction does this by featuring a variety of acts of brutality towards the human neck. In fact, it doesn’t so much feature neck damage as it does revel in it. If real life were like Maximum Conviction, people would wear iron turtleneck jumpers at all times, and Steve Austin and Steven Seagal would laugh at the idea that they could be stopped from larynx splattering by something so flimsy as iron and the human will.
If Steve Austin is going to kill you, and he is, it’s going to be right in the neck. He opens his kill account in Maximum Conviction with a delightful throat stab, and in the same scene chalks up a chain choke and a headlock chuck. Seagal seems happy to let Austin wage a one-man war against windpipes, with more throat stabbings following, but can’t resist joining in when the opportunity for a twisting neck-break kill presents itself. The heart wants what the heart wants, and Steven Seagal’s heart wants to snap your neck.
Maximum poodle jokes
“I got a better idea. Why don’t you fuck your momma and one of your pet poodles?” Steven Seagal, Maximum Conviction.
Two minutes’ shared screen time, maximum
Steve Austin and Steven Seagal are in Maximum Conviction a lot. But this is a low budget film and it seems that getting them in the same place at the same time was a challenge.
I assume that scheduling was the problem, but it could also be that the two times they were on set together ended with ill-feeling and epic, unfilmed, extras-killing brawls. There’s nothing to suggest that did happen, but where’s the harm in wild, potentially harmful speculation?
Perhaps more likely is that no one camera was able to take in the two of them for too long, due to the incredible toughness on display. Who could blame the team behind Maximum Conviction for shooting the film in a way that resulted in maximum equipment deposit return?
In a way, Maximum Conviction is like a cinematic version of an internet comments section, in that everyone is fighting. Because in Maximum Conviction, holy shit, everyone is fighting.
Obviously Steven Seagal is fighting and it is, as ever, a pleasure to watch him do so. Seagal has spent more time honing his skills as an injury infliction specialist than I have watching him while eating popcorn and drinking beer. And guys, that’s a lot of time. He fights with enthusiasm and expertise, whether crumpling bigger guys who are half his age or gouging a gang of scumbags armed with guns and bad ideas. God bless you, Steven Seagal, for your fighting.
Steve Austin, too, loves a decent ruck, although his scrap style is more bludgeoning based than Seagal’s painful precision. Still, Austin is quite capable of making his point, and more often than not his point is that he strongly disagrees with your body’s current lack of broken limbs.
The supporting cast put up a valiant effort, too. There’s fisticuffs aplenty, whether it’s the evil troops invading the prison, a prisoner with a secret agenda, a sexually reprehensible prisoner whose agenda is anything but secret, or the leader of the specialist support team that comes in to rescue Seagal and his friends. In fact, I’ll take the opportunity here to extend my congratulations to the actor who plays that role – well done Bren Foster, your violence is tremendous.
Maximum Conviction is not a film that is unsure how it should end. If you can watch the first hour and 20 minutes of the film suggest a satisfying ending that isn’t ‘gun carnage’, then you’re a better man than me. Although to even attempt to do so would be to show screenwriter Richard Beattie maximum disrespect, and I’d like to think you’re better than that.
So, Maximum Conviction ends in exactly the way I’d like this article to – with an almighty shoot out. Guns blazing, the heroes look to take out the villains and save the day.
A brief postscript: I can only hope that the team behind Maximum Conviction can produce something as fun as this when Force Of Execution (featuring the same writer and director) is released. Sadly, it looks as though Austin won’t be taking part, but the IMDb page for the film currently suggests we’ll see Seagal reuniting with Machete co-star Danny Trejo. Should things go to plan, keep an eye out for that film, and the accompanying list – 10 displays of force in Force Of Execution.
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