The Steven Seagal films of 2016

We check out every Steven Seagal film released last year. There were quite a few of them...

2016 was an eventful year for Steven Seagal. The action movie star really took to Twitter, got political, wore some lovely coats and was granted Russian citizenship. But we aren’t here to dissect Steven Seagal’s off-screen life because, well, fuck. What we can do is try to make some sense of his cinematic output. This article will tell you a bit about the Seagal films released in 2016 (it’s full on with spoilers) to let you know how he got on.

With films getting different releases in different territories, I’ve covered every Seagal film with a home video release in 2016 that I might reasonably be expected to have access to. That’s five in total. In the UK, we had a bumper Seagal summer, with three films in the space of about ten weeks. I’ve got the other two in from North America.

To think, most Den of Geek writers are satisfied to cover Marvel movies, Doctor Who and other things that you actually want to read about. Pfft.

Code Of Honor

Release date: 6th June 2016 (UK release)

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Character name: Steven Seagal IS Colonel Robert Sikes

Seagopsis: The police are starting to find the exploits of a local vigilante to be a bit much. As local drug gangs are becoming increasingly shot in the face, a special investigator believes that military hero Robert Sikes is at work and that he must be stopped. He may not be adhering to the law, but Sikes follows his own code, a… Code Of Honor!

Code Of Honor finds Seagal’s Sikes bamboozling police as he wages a brutal campaign of vigilante violence against the gangs and lowlifes out on the street.

Steven Seagal is a chameleon on the screen, assuming the chameleon has a mysterious military background, is an ace with throwing knives and has a taste for fashionable scarves. Seagal has really honed his signature performance down to its very essence. It’s quite a still essence.

Unfortunately, Code Of Honour isn’t very good. It has a lot of what you tend to find in Steven Seagal films and some of that, at least, is enjoyable. The dude hunting Seagal is deeply in love with him. In particular he’s impressed as hell that Seagal has taken up smoking: “Smoking cigars now? And I thought he was perfect!” he says out loud to himself, and then likely writes in his feelings journal off screen. It wouldn’t be a Seagal film if those locked in deadly combat with him weren’t absolutely smitten.

There’s also Seagal’s signature strip club scene. Steven Seagal is in a near constant state of being in strip clubs scouting out bad guys and being a bit above that sort of thing. The sequence here features so much stripper slow motion that I’m able to draw the dancer’s breasts from memory. I shouldn’t have, though, and I accept that I did ruin Auntie Carol’s get well soon card.

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The final Seagal treat here is a rare walkaway explosion. Kaboom!

Some of Seagal’s other, less enjoyable, movie traits are also present. His wafting great monologues, combined with the rest of the films honking dialogue, are an unwelcome addition, even after an uncharacteristically quiet start for the Aikodo specialist (the first 30 minutes his character is a cross between Michael Myers, The Punisher and whatever plausible explanation you can come up with for that beard).

Lazy body double work featuring a performer who looks nothing like him also makes an unwelcome reappearance. Late on in the film Not-Seagal spots a helicopter, scampers away and barrel rolls off a roof through a skylight. It should be the highlight of the film but instead it just makes you shout “You’re not my real Seagal!” at the screen.

Towards the end of the movie we get a surprising twist. Suddenly, we can’t be sure Steven Seagal exists. He’s like Seagalser Soze or Santahhhhhh! Claus. Has the main character been imagining Steven Seagal for the entire movie? If so, I totally get it. Whenever I get bored during a film I imagine Steven Seagal is in it too.

Unfortunately our first Seagal release of 2016 is bad and, in spite of Seagal taking pride of place on the cover, features him in just a supporting role.

Further reading: Our interview with Code Of Honor director Michael Winnick.

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Asian Connection

Release date: 4th July 2016 (UK release)

Character name: Steven Seagal IS Gan Sirankiri

Seagopsis: Two small time crooks think they’re onto something when hopping across the border between Cambodia and Thailand to rob small banks finds them scoring big. These banks are heavily stocked with cash as mob boss Gan (Seagal) is stashing his money there. Gan is closing in on the guy who’s tipping these robbers off, but will the thieves be able to resist one last cash grab before Seagal can identify their… Asian Connection!

Steven Seagal appears on screen and immediately agrees to a sword fight with a sword master. I was obviously nervous, but thankfully Seagal wins and walks away without so much as a scratch on him.

This is one of Seagal’s smaller roles as a mobster that have popped up from time to time since he stretched his legs by playing the villain in Machete. He appears roughly every 15 minutes and so for the second film in a row I find I’m getting a diluted dose of Seagal cinema.

The Seagal checklist goes largely unticked, although he does have a much younger lady friend (a classic move from the Seagallion Stallion). Seagal practices martial arts with his companion in several scenes. It’s gentle and flute music plays in the background, all very sensual and spiritual. It runs counter to my owns experiences of martial arts, which typically involve me waddling along to a kickboxing class in a community hall and almost throwing up during the warm up, soundtracked by decidedly unsensual huffing and grunting.

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We do get one of the more recent trends in Seagal cinema, what I’ve come to refer to as the sitting Steven, where Mr. Seagal performs much of the film from a seated position. It was the case in Code Of Honor and it’s the case in Asian Connection, too. In fact, it’s the case in the majority of the films on this list. Seagal gets a little lively at the end and it’s great, but it’s the exception rather than the rule now.

“Why don’t you do me on all this cash?” Asian Connection is a classy picture, of course, but this line is also an indicator of problems beyond its surface level trashiness. The character who says this is also the narrator, who introduces the film by telling us that she hates shortcuts and is prepared to work for what she wants. Then, one look inside a duffel bag full of stolen cash and guns and she’s frothing like a busy barista. The character doesn’t match her narration. The whole film is erratic and wonky.

Asian Connection is most notable for its, er, connections. Michael Jai White is a welcome highlight, cameoing as an angry bald man who has actually read the script. Then there’s the ‘story by’ credit for Tom Sizemore, suggesting the film may have had a more interesting life before it was a film.

It has the bones of a movie that could be brought to life, but Asian Connection seems short on resources and craftsmanship. As it stands it’s not very good, and it doesn’t feel like a Seagal film. I’m all for him branching out but the films will need to be good. This is a tatty Tarantino rip off or a desperately poor take on Elmore Leonard.

Sniper: Special Ops

Release date: 1st August 2016 (UK release)

Character name: Steven Seagal IS Jake

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Seagopsis: A military mission goes wrong, leaving precision shooter Seagal and an injured soldier stranded in enemy territory. A plucky young photographer joins a small group of soldiers on the rescue mission. They’ll be heading into enemy territory to recover the wounded warrior and Seagal, their beloved… Sniper!

Obviously, when I buy a Steven Seagal film what I’m after is lots of footage of people who are not Steven Seagal bickering. The team behind Sniper: Special Ops have done well to guess that.

Sniper: Special Ops starts out slow, which is fine if you’re planning on ramping things up. It turns out that it’s not fine. It is a terrible, paceless slog of almost nothing happening in the desert, aimed solely at military fetishists who are amazed by moving images.

Seagal spends the majority of the film off screen. When he is about he’s sitting down, usually in a room with an injured solider waiting for a rescue team. Seagal and his roommate make a funny pair. The injured solider is sweating up a storm and will likely never walk again. Seagal is fine. He’s only sticking around because his fellow soldier needs him. The injured solider is distressed while Seagal is collected. Seagal doesn’t really need to be rescued, you see.

Sniper: Special Ops features the most unbelievable Seagal stand-in cover up that I’ve ever seen. Not-Seagal literally does a head-scratch/hat adjustment move to keep his hand in front of his face. Seagal wasn’t willing to walk through a door? You couldn’t have moved the camera so we didn’t see his face? What do we even need this shot for? What is going on over there guys? Jesus wept.

The shootouts are terrible. They’re all just mid shots of dudes firing guns for far too long. How do you make a shootout dull? There are no strippers, which is mad for a Seagal film. The closest they get is the female photographer gets grazed by a bullet and, wouldn’t you know it, has to get her bra out to inspect the wound. Seagal isn’t even there, so he’s not able to make his ‘I’m staring intently but only because I disapprove’ face.

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If the writer of Saving Private Ryan got diarrhoea and wrote a detailed diary entry about it, Sniper: Special Ops would be the film adaptation. The only reason to see it is for Seagal’s fleeting appearances in a nice army scarf.

The Perfect Weapon

Release date: December (North American home video release)

Character name: Steven Seagal IS The Director. Not of the film, that’s just his character’s name.

Seagopsis: In the near future a sci-fi hitman bobbles about in a terrible film that I had to watch because I decided to write this article. I’ve made a mistake and I wish Steven Seagal wasn’t in… The Perfect Weapon!

It’s 2029 and propaganda videos starring Steven Seagal’s face are playing all over the sides of tall grey skyscrapers. I’ve long dreamed of living in a world where Seagal films are projected onto the sides of buildings and am dismayed to learn I may have to wait twelve years for that to become a reality. Even then, it’s just more of his terrible monologues. I’d have gone with the pool hall scene from Out For Justice or the last 20 minutes of Marked For Death. I trust you, the fine commenters of this website, not to suggest the cake scene from Under Siege.

The Perfect Weapon starts poorly, with the opening scenes suggesting a duff sci fi take on the Hitman games. There are strippers in the first five minutes of the film, so it does at least feel like a normal Seagal showing to begin with. Only, where the hell is he? Scenes set in strip clubs are a magnet for the renowned villain shatterer. Perhaps he’s absent because there are strippers of both genders. Could it be that we’ve finally found Seagal’s weakness and it’s men’s nipples?

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What starts out looking like a fairly standard Seagal misfire goes on to become odd and incompetent to the point of being surreal. How can I explain myself here? Imagine if this was meant to be an article about the Avengers but when you clicked on it you found a video of Jude Law barking at some cheese. The film is just a seemingly endless sequence of strange, poorly considered scenes tumbling into one another.

Seagal first appears 22 minutes in. He’s sitting down again, but defies expectations by standing up. This is clearly one of his more involved modern performances. He is, shockingly, chilling with a much younger woman. He also has a samurai sword. He reappears about 40 minutes later, laying a reassuring hand on a naked woman. I paid more than £15 for this film.

His role is more prominent towards the end of the film but, irritatingly, the fourth Seagal film of the year is his fourth supporting performance of the year. While it’s another short Seagal show, it is remarkable because his character dies! Perhaps he was willing to suffer only his fourth on screen death ever because the film was bizarre enough to allow him to die as nature intended; he’s killed with a samurai sword by another Steven Seagal.

Another crap one, this. The Perfect Weapon is Universal Soldier reimagined for the glue sniffer in your life.

End Of A Gun

Release date: December (North American home video release)

Character name: Steven Seagal IS Decker

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Seagopsis: When former cop Decker (Seagal) sees a young woman being assaulted by her boyfriend in the street, he steps in. The abusive boyfriend ends up shot right in his bastard face, leaving $2m in ill-gotten cash up for grabs in a secret hideaway. His mobster pals have every intention of getting their hands on it, but when Seagal sets his sights on it they’re more likely to find themselves facing the… End Of A Gun!

A last minute save of 2016, Seagal’s sole leading turn comes in by far his best movie of the year. While it’s unlikely to win over new fans, it’s a clattering halt to the freefall Seagalophiles have sat through all 2016. End Of A Gun is a very typical modern Seagal film spruced up with a more thoughtful script, stylish cinematography and a light coat of film noir.

“That’s trouble right there. In my life trouble always comes in a small black dress.”

That’s an excerpt from Seagal’s narration. Combined with a fun, 70s inspired soundtrack and some actually quite impressive cinematography, End Of A Gun has a particularly enjoyable funky noir vibe to it.

Seagal and the woman he’s working with (former Sugababe Jade Ewan) don’t trust each other. That’s new, because usually everyone in a Steven Seagal film adores Steven Seagal. Similarly, the bad guys can’t trust each other as they’re all villainous shitbags. These aren’t revolutionary innovations of cinema, but DTV action films tend to be different by small degrees and these little changes do serve to make it a more interesting watch.

As our hyper-handed hero is paired off with a considerably younger woman, it’s only natural that the pair should fall in love. That love manifests itself physically. I’d have called this film Steven Seagal Fucks One Of The Sugababes, but then I also would have made that scene much, much more graphic, so perhaps I should keep my ideas to myself.

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Seagal delivers his dialogue in a wispy, affected southern drawl, as he does now, and at times you could be forgiven for thinking he was struggling to remember his lines. Is it a bit mumbly? Yes. Look, Steven Seagal invented mumblecore cinema, which hipsters have been fawning over for years. The Duplass brothers may get all the credit but that’s just because the arthouse crowd can’t deal with neck violence.

Unfortunately, at times Seagal is left to ramble on. “I’m a fucking ghost,” he says in End Of A Gun and probably every other film in this article. It’s like Groundhog Day except I’m doing it to my own DVD player. It’s like Groundhog Day except I’m ah, you get the joke. Seagal’s directionless monologues are splattered onto this film like kebab sick down the side of a minicab.

End Of A Gun is alright; there’s some good stuff in here. No one’s going to think they’ve stumbled onto a lost Shane Black film or anything, and it’s marred by stand-in cloaking choppy action sequences, but it’s a massive step up for this particular article and I had a lot of fun with it.