Some of you may question whether covering the career of Steven Seagal really required five articles. I can’t tell you that it was a conscious decision I made. Rather, I wrote the piece and this is how long it came out. If Steven Seagal films have taught me anything, it’s to trust your instincts and to spread your articles over five days.
Now, onto a set of even better films, featuring a cowboy hat, a small horse and street slang.
15. The Patriot
The crisis is spreading. The danger is growing. Time is running out.
Steven Seagal IS Dr. Wesley McClaren. Wesley is a small town doctor, raising his daughter on a farm and helping the locals with their ailments. Unfortunately for Wesley, his peaceful life is interrupted by a local militia intent on using an engineered virus to make some vague point about the decline of America. These filthy banjo twangers have no idea the kind of facial trauma they’re getting themselves into. Out of their depth, they kidnap Seagal’s daughter, as movie villains do, and are soon facing the wrath of… The Patriot!
Originally destined for the big screen, The Patriot somehow managed to get diverted along away the way, making it the star’s first straight-to-video movie. It’s certainly a silly affair, culminating in military helicopters being used to disperse flowers through the streets, but it’s perfectly watchable. This one is notable for a flip through a window, Seagal in a lab coat, Seagal as a cowboy and Seagal nursing a Shetland pony back to health.
14. Driven to Kill
They took his daughter. So he’s taking them down.
Steven Seagal IS Ruslan, a former Russian mob affiliate turned author. You guys are not going to believe what the bad guys do; they attempt to kill his ex-partner and his daughter on the day of his daughter’s wedding. This film came out in 2009, so you’d think they would know what happens to people who that sort of thing to Steven Seagal’s loved ones. These dogshit doughnuts think Ruslan’s daughter is dead, but Ruslan has her stashed away in a hospital while she shakes off a minor coma. He teams up with her heartbroken fiancé, who thinks she is dead, and just beats the shit out of everyone. Ruslan will find out who is responsible for the attempted hit on his daughter; they started his engine, now he is… Driven to Kill!
Slow to start, silly and simple? All accusations you could fairly make against Driven to Kill. So why is it here? Because it’s a laugh and a half. It’s a film I’ve previously described on Den of Geek as ‘passionately in love with knife fighting’, and indeed, the highlight of the movie a strip club slash ‘em up brawl where Seagal dices up Russian henchmen like they were ingredients in a Soviet stew. Unlikely to win him any new fans, Seagal enthusiasts will find much to enjoy.
13. Renegade Justice (aka Urban Justice)
When revenge is personal, justice can be brutal.
Steven Seagal IS Simon Ballister, a heartbroken father investigating the murder of his policeman son. Simon takes an apartment in a rough Los Angeles neighborhood to get to the bottom of his son’s shooting, soon causing a stir amongst the local gangs by tying many of their limbs in such a wide variety of knots you’d swear he was trying to earn a scouts badge. He soon learns that the crime was not the senseless gang slaying that the police had suggested. In fact, perhaps it’s a cockheaded corrupt cop who deserves to feel the force of Simon’s… Renegade Justice!
Although Renegade Justice was released straight to video, it was apparently considered for a theatrical release. It’s easily one of the most polished and competent of Seagal’s DTV era. The film is well acted, well-paced and, save for a few shoddy looking sequences, well photographed. It feels like a middle ground between Seagal’s DTV and theatrical films. Eddie Griffin surprised me with a really entertaining turn as an ambitious gang leader. Seagal, too, puts in one of his strongest performances.
The film is a joy to watch, with shoot outs, car chases and glorious arm pulling, face punching, nut punting fight scenes (Seagal kills a guy with the Iron Sheik’s Camel Clutch move!). Renegade Justice gets bonus points for a brief cameo that reunites Seagal on screen with Dangerous Danny Trejo! Seagal tells him “You’re a lot like me – a bad guy with good intentions” and if that doesn’t make a man out of you I honestly don’t know what will. Goodness me.
Renegade Justice, then, isn’t the most adventurous film, but it’s probably the best version of this type of Steven Seagal movie.
12. Half Past Dead
The Good, the Bad and the Deadly
Steven Seagal IS Sasha. Arrested while hanging out with Ja Rule (who opens fire on the FBI, unprovoked, because that was the mood of the room at the time), Sasha finds himself imprisoned in a new super-jail on Alcatraz. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the prison is attacked by violent, thieving shitclowns after a death row inmate who has gold stashed away. It’s up to Sasha and Ja Rule to stop bad guys, save the good guys and maintain their valuable, heartwarming friendship. When they finally track down the bad guys, they’d better set their watches to… Half Past Dead.
Seagal’s last theatrical starring role to date, Half Past Dead is basically The Rock meets Die Hard but nowhere near as good as either. It’s not bad, though. Ja Rule makes for an interesting sidekick, offering at times a trigger happy nuisance and, at others, a damsel in distress. The fight scenes aren’t great, the effects are poor and it’s as cheesy as Dutch nachos. Still, it’s silly and entertaining. This one is most notable for its bizarre skydiving ending, a villain who appears to be called Sonny Eggfart and a scene where Ja Rule teaches Steven Seagal how to say “aight”.
11. Maximum Conviction
Maximum security. Maximum firepower.
Steven Seagal IS Cross, a highly trained former military professional, shutting down a secret prison with the help of trusted ally Manning (‘Stone Cold’ Steve Austin). What should be a simple procedure turns into a violent nightmare when a heavily armed team of shart merchants attack, intent on taking one of the remaining prisoners due to valuable information she has. The saying goes ‘don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time’, and with Seagal as judge, they face… Maximum Conviction.
Maximum Conviction is fine for the 25 minutes it takes to set itself up. Unspectacular, but fine. Once the violence kicks off, though, it’s a blast. With a decent cast of characters, and Austin taking co-headline, the big S is freed up to do what he does best; swagger around delivering cool guy lines and twisting the bad guys into shapes that contradict the design of the human skeleton.
There’s just so much action in it, and it doesn’t get bogged down in plot (which is the downfall of many light action films). It brings in a load of characters, shuts them in an enclosed space and lets them get on with pummeling and shooting each other to death. Every character gets a chance to prove how deadly they are, and most do so with enthusiasm. For me, Maximum Conviction was an unexpected pleasure. It’s a film notable for an excellent fire stunt, a gruesome arm injury and potentially the best poodle quip I’ve ever heard in a film.
Tomorrow? It’s part four of our countdown…
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