SPOILER ALERT !!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here, on the dawning of a new year with probably the most important story of 2004… That’s right… Our man Vern has an unhealthy addiction. Some like crack, some like weed, some like opium. Vern likes Steven Seagal. I don’t pretend to understand, just like I don’t pretend to understand ether addicts, but hey… someone’s gotta keep the love torch going for Seagal and Vern’s just the man to do it! I doubt I will ever willingly and knowingly watch another Seagal movie, but if I do this might very well be the one… Seagal singing? Seagal’s Angels? Released on my Birthday? Signs are lining up and if they click into place I will not be able to resist! Enjoy Vern’s man-love for Seagal! I know I did!!!
It’s been a while since I wrote anything for The Ain’t It Cool News. But the time has arrived. Once or twice, maybe three or four times a year, however often it is that Steven Seagal comes out with a new straight to video picture, it is my sworn duty to give you boys a holler. As you know I am one of North America’s leading Seagalogists, and I have found that your place is a good forum for sharing my initial findings as the new works are rolled out for study.
The new one coming February 15th is INTO THE SUN, a Yakuza thriller set in Japan, which is often a good place for Yakuza thrillers in my opinion. This is by no means a comeback for Seagal (he’s been here for years, etc.) but it does have a couple things that make it rise above the recent batch of OUT OF REACH, OUT FOR A KILL, and THE FOREIGNER (also BELLY OF THE BEAST but I won’t lump that in since it’s probaly the craziest and most entertaining of them):
- Production value. It feels more like a real movie. The opening scene alone has five elephants and a helicopter. Just 3 elephants probaly cost more than that whole pen pal movie OUT OF REACH. It’s filmed on location in Japan and Thailand and some of it even looks good. There’s one real good shot of Seagal walking through a pachinko parlor and also a real artful overhead shot of a sword fight.
- Decent cast. Most of them speak horrible English, but they’re better than the euro-trash cheeseballs he’s been fighting in some of the recent ones. Ken Lo is one of the bad guys. William Atherton is in there, for whatever that’s worth. And there’s kind of a Seagal’s Angels thing going on here with a trio of hotties – a young sword fighter that for some reason volunteers to be his “shield,” a CIA/FBI/orsomething covert operative named Jewel, and Seagal’s strip club owner fiancee (more on that later, that’s good). Chiaki “Gogo Yubari” Kuriyama is also in it as the governor’s daughter. Her part is, she is standing on a balcony next to the governor for about 15 seconds. (At least they didn’t put her on the cover.)
- Speaking of which, this is his best cover in years. Okay, so it has nothing to do with the movie at all. There is no scene in the movie where Seagal struts cockily away from a gigantic fiery car explosion with a novelty oversized machine gun strapped to his back. But it’s a nice badass gesture, better than those generic collages with the CIA logos in the background. Good to see some yellow in there, anyway.
- Seagal seems to have his heart in it more. He wrote the story and co-wrote the script (his first story credit since his very first movie, ABOVE THE LAW) and he puts some of his favorite things in there. In the opening scene he blows a big CIA drug smuggler bust to stop a woman from being assaulted, just like in OUT FOR JUSTICE when he blew a bust to stop a pimp from beating a hooker. His character sells Japanese swords (something Vanity Fair says he is actually an expert in), he gets to speak more Japanese than ever before, and he gets in a good swipe at CIA disinformation (another ABOVE THE LAW similarity). There’s even a reference to his daughter, Ayako Fujitani, when he slaughters a roomful of gangsters while they’re watching one of her Gamera movies. And it took me a minute to figure it out but on the end credits, sure enough, that’s Seagal singing! I mean I gotta be honest, there is alot of focus on the Japanese characters, and long stretches that are completely Seagal-less. So he is probaly still only working part time. But at least he seems like he’s trying when he’s on screen, and I didn’t notice any parts dubbed over by other actors.
- More energetic, less gloomy. The director is mink, who if anybody had ever heard of him would be known for his lower case letters and for directing the Busta Rhymes movie FULL CLIP (Check my review here!!!). IMDb says Christian Duguay directed it but what do they know, anyway. Point is, the look and feel are much more involving and professional than, well, mainly the last one.
That’s the good news. The bad news is because it’s a little less shitty it’s also a little less fun. It’s not a genuinely good b-movie like OUT FOR JUSTICE or something so you almost wish it had more of the ridiculous shit. And the movie takes its sweet time getting to the action. Most of it seems to be repetitive scenes of the Yakuza executing their rivals or Seagal meeting with somebody to ask them if they can find out information for him. So you really wish there’d be something really retarded like flying across the world because he senses his pen pal has been sold into white slavery (OUT OF REACH) or fighting acrobatic wire fu guys by standing in one spot and waiting until they get close enough to punch (BELLY OF THE BEAST) or playing an international art thief turned Yale professor of Chinese archaeology (OUT FOR A KILL).
But it’s not that type of movie. This one has a more down to earth but hard to follow plot involving a Japanese governor who gets assassinated by the Yakuza and Tongs working together. It’s about drugs but the Department of Homeland Security thinks it’s about terrorism so naturally they have the FBI call the CIA to have their best Yakuza expert investigate. I don’t get it either but the point is, the expert is Seagal. All he really does to investigate is look at a video and ask a couple people if they know anything, but coincidentally he bumps into a young Yakuza on the street and gets into a fight, beating them all senseless. Next thing you know the poor kid has to cut off his pinky as a “token of regret” and the bad guys are worried about this “American who grew up in Japan… apparently he is a sword master.”
I’m glad he’s using swords more than guns now, because his current size works better with the samurai image. He still has that weird Dracula wig widow’s peak, and in one scene he takes it to the next level by wearing what looks like a Nosferatu jacket. Otherwise the fashion is pretty subdued (no beads or shiny blouses).
I should mention also, whoever wrote the text for the box says Seagal is an “ex-CIA agent,” which was a safe bet. But he’s actually a current CIA agent in this one, believe it or not. They switched it up on us, almost like a whole new Seagal. The character’s name is Travis, so some Seagalogists may argue that it is a prequel to EXECUTIVE DECISION, and the character later loses weight, joins the military and dies heroically trying to climb onto a plane. But I don’t know if the name “Travis” is really significant because everybody seems to call him different things, including “Dai-Ryu,” “Master,” “Travis-san” and even “Big Papa.”
The story includes many of the usual themes of Yakuza movies, so Big Papa meets with a friendly old school Yakuza boss who talks about rules and how these young punks are ruining everything with their lack of honor and their working with Chinese people. The good Yakuza are old guys who are traditionalists and are really into robes and rituals and crap. The bad ones are young kids with spikey hair who drink out of bottles instead of bowls, play violent video games and have one of those robotic dogs. They make fun of the idea of a guy using a sword in this day and age but as soon as Big Papa unsheathes it seems like everybody he runs into has a sword on them. So I guess these kids are out of touch, swords are actually very popular these days.
My new year’s resolution by the way is A Commitment To Excellence. That means I’m trying to do a real good job of everything. So if you have noticed that this review is of a very high quality, that is why. Anyway, the one really standout bit of ridiculousness is the romantic subplot with Nayako (Kanako Yamaguchi), who looks about the same age as Seagal’s daughter. The first time you see her she’s just some acquaintance of his, a CIA informant he tells to ask around about who assassinated the governor. The second time you see her he’s checking up on her info and they call each other “my darling” and you start to wonder wait a minute, what’s going on here? Then in her third scene they’re sitting in the park and in less than a minute they reveal that they are secretly in love with each other, decide to get married and quit the CIA. Then comes the most clumsy and chaste sex scene you can imagine. She takes off her top and they hug, then kiss. I think even Seagal felt uncomfortable with this scene. He looks like he’s kissing a frog.
Shot in Japan, weirdly non-sexual romance between old man and young pretty woman… maybe this was supposed to be his version of LOST IN TRANSLATION, I don’t know. Of course the ending is a little different. Women in movies gotta realize, you get engaged to Steve Seagal and you’re on deadly ground, marked for death without necessarily being hard to kill.
But unlike all those movies I just cleverly mentioned in one completely natural sentence, INTO THE SUN is pretty boring until the end. Then it turns into a bunch of sword fights and that’s when all the good dialogue comes in, usually in subtitled Japanese. When Big Papa pulls out a sword he says in Japanese, “This one is so sharp. I’ll use it tonight. This kills very well.” When he finds the guy who killed his fiancee he says, “I shall beat you to death!” and then bludgeons the guy with the blade of the sword instead of chopping him. One of his sidekicks arguably gets the best one though: “I couldn’t sleep well knowing I hadn’t chopped off your balls yet.” (Unfortunately he does not get to chop off the guy’s balls. Sorry.)
And after the story is wrapped up mink and company have a sudden burst of imagination so they tag on a weird scene with Jewel and her FBI team. A van marked “Fast Beautiful Inc.” pulls up to the temple where Big Papa just slaughtered all the gangsters, they run in and paint everything (bodies, weapons, walls) bright blue. Man, I don’t get it but the first two thirds of the movie coulda used more stuff like that.
In the end I’m not sure what was really accomplished. Big Papa does wipe out the young generation of Yakuzas, but the old ones are still there, the governor is still dead, Big Papa’s fiancee is dead, he’s still in the CIA, his white FBI partner who I didn’t mention in this review is dead, Homeland Security probaly still thinks it was terrorists, the blue paint is probaly harmful to the environment, no cars have been blown up and Gogo Yubari still doesn’t have a line. When will this madness end? We gotta stop all this fighting and nonsense, people.
In conclusion, this one is more competent than we usually get from Seagal’s straight to video pictures. But maybe too competent.
Well everybody, thanks for joining me, and we’ll see you again soon. And repeatedly. So far the IMDB lists four Seagal movies for 2005. And there’s a whole 12 months for his schedule to really kick into gear.
A Commitment to Excellence in 2005
Originally posted at Ain’t-It-Cool-News: http://www.aintitcool.com/node/19051
View the archived Ain’t-It-Cool-News Talkback
Dec. 31, 2004, 5:37 a.m. CST
Dec. 31, 2004, 6:09 a.m. CST
Me na know na screwface,find him ya f@~kin self….Happy new year Vern and all AICN crew.
Dec. 31, 2004, 7:31 a.m. CST
Screwface….that just made my weekend
Too fucking funny, and when re Segal and Van damme going to realize we want to see them in a movie together, I mean there is a whole generation who grew up wanting to know who was the biggest bad ass and shortly after that who has fell the furthest from the spotlight (Van damme is a drunk but Segal did divorce Kelly Lebrock)a movie with them too in it would make alot of money on the straight to dvd market.
Dec. 31, 2004, 7:50 a.m. CST
… BEST SEAGAL ROLE EVER!!! Yeah, I said it, what?!?!
Dec. 31, 2004, 8:16 a.m. CST
Seagal & Elvis are ONE
by captain omega
Brothers, we’ve been missing a miraculous thing that’s been before our very eyes all along. Steve really is a Thulka. It’s now clear to me that the ancient priest or being that he is a reincarnation of, is no other than THE KING. Let me list the similarities supporting this theory, this observation, this Truth: (since THE KING lives forever, the comparison will be in the present tense): 1)both like gunz, 2)both are singers, 3)both are martial artists, 4)both are fascinated with “spooky” government agencies (remember Nixon’s deputization of Elvis as a Fed), 5)both have flashy outfits, 6)both have weight problems…
Revel in the glory! ELIVIS LIVES BABY!
Dec. 31, 2004, 8:50 a.m. CST
I was an extra in a Segal movie
by Drunken Rage
“On Deadly Ground.” I’m one of the scared oil rig workers, running around carrying what looks like a big bottle-opener. Before the shot SS and his AD stood on a flatbed truck and gave us “direction.” The AD (Jeff, I think, was his name) explained that they weren’t really sure how much explosive they actually needed to blow out the fire and that we needed to be careful in case the oil rig/derrick blew up and fell over onto us. He told us that if we wanted to we could just run around scared outside the perimeter of the rig/derrick. Up to this point SS had said nothing but now decided to direct us. “But if you do that,” he told us, “you’re a fucking pussy.”
Dec. 31, 2004, 9:13 a.m. CST
GEORGE BUSH IS A CHEAP ASS BASTARD!
America donated a total of 35 million dollars for the aid of the tsunami victims. Now that sounds a reasanable amount, but that’s just a tremendous insignificant effort to help those people (for such a big country). A little comparison: a tiny country like The Netherlands donated a total of over 30 million dollars.
What’s striking is that according to a survey more than 80% of the americans think that their country is responsible for more than 25% of the total budget aid. Fact is that this is less than a quarter of a procent(!!).
Just a thought…
And a Happy New Year to all you geeks (including myself)!
Dec. 31, 2004, 10:18 a.m. CST
make him an offer he can’t refuse
If Seagal wasn’t such an arrogant twat, he’d have given up “serious” roles and turned to comedy. He’s fucking hilarious, in that completely unintentional, thick as pigshit kind of way, though. Funnier than Arnie at least.
Dec. 31, 2004, 10:43 a.m. CST
Mmmmm, Chiaki Kuriyama…
by Osmosis Jones
Does she wear a Japanese schoolgirl outfit in this one?
Dec. 31, 2004, 11:26 a.m. CST
I’M GONNA KEEP COMIN’ BACK,
‘TIL SOMEBODY REMEMBERS SEEING RICHIE!
Out For Justice is still my fave Seagal flick. “It’s not gonna make me forget, Patty… you were never that good”.
Dec. 31, 2004, 11:36 a.m. CST
It’s sad when the “best” Seagal performance of the year was done
Dec. 31, 2004, 2 p.m. CST
Last movie of his I saw was Exit Wounds and that was hilarious
by andrew coleman
Well hilariously bad, but I really enjoy bad movies every once and a while. Oh and you forgot to add a 0 to that 35 mil, US is sending 350 million dollars in aid, good work on that one
Dec. 31, 2004, 3:03 p.m. CST
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org bud. I want to use your On Deadly Ground story in a book I’m working on, if possible. I tried to get your attention in a previous talkback but I was too late. As for the $35 million in tsunami aid somebody mentioned, they upped it to $350 today because of the embarassment of the original figure being the same as the budget for INTO THE SUN. At first they thought they could get away with it but my review made INTO THE SUN higher profile and they had no choice but to throw in more money. One person (Steven Seagal) really can make a difference.
Dec. 31, 2004, 3:26 p.m. CST
“it feels more like a real movie…”
“-he runs like a girl.”
Dec. 31, 2004, 7 p.m. CST
the tide has turned
i remember at one time stumbling upon a talkback where everyone was jizzing all over seagal, calling him the best actor since bogart. it was a bit taken aback as the man had become a parody of himself far earlier. when i suggested that he was a bit of a joke, everyone spazzed out saying shit like, “he’s a CIA agent and he could kick your ass!”. now look how the tide has turned. the emperor has no clothes and seagal is the object of universal derision. all you seagal fans (if there are any left) i’d like to see a no-holds barred UFC match between harry and seagal; and my money is on Harry! Harry, sit on him! crush him!
Dec. 31, 2004, 9 p.m. CST
Too little, too late…Seagal’ washed up. Get a fat lady to sing
This bastard is still making movies? His recent ’embracing of buddhism’ is quite a laugh riot. What’s next, a kiddie film? Give it up already! I have your fork right here. You’re done. Done I tell ya!!!!
Jan. 1, 2005, 2:10 a.m. CST
That’s a made up story dude. Seagal has been looked down on longer than this sight has existed. He has been the underdog since some time around Executive Decision. You probaly just saw a talkback with a handful of people defending him. But don’t worry bud, I will convince you. It is okay to laugh both at and with him. That’s what my Seagalogical works are all about.
Jan. 1, 2005, 3:41 a.m. CST
Great work as usual, Vern! I am actually a huge fan of Seagal and even I haven’t brought myself to watch “Out of Reach” yet. I loved “Belly of the Beast” for its sheer insanity but the reviews for “Out of Reach” were worse than lukewarm, to say the least. After “The Foreigner” and “Out For a Kill” I don’t know if I can let myself be hurt again. It pains me to see Seagal reduced to a shadow (well, more like a blob) of the man he used to be. I long for the days when he would break at least three bones per film. His disposal of Screwface in “Marked For Death” remains one of the most brutal deaths in cinematic history. That said, I can’t wait to catch Jean Claude’s new “Wake of Death” on DVD! At least one former action star still has it.
Jan. 1, 2005, 5:56 a.m. CST
I swear Vern it’s true !!!!
i swear, Vern, they all ganged up on me. here’s the link: http://www.aintitcool.com/tb_display.cgi?id=12648#477464 granted, it was from almost 3 years ago, but it was perhaps at the moment when the balance slowly tipped from Seagal “Bad Ass” to just Seagal “Ass”.
Jan. 1, 2005, 5:58 a.m. CST
Steven Seagal Drinking Game
The Steven Seagal Drinking Game
Anyone makes a crack about Steven’s ponytail – One drink
Steven later beats the living crap out of that person – Two drinks
Steven later has to work with that person – Three drinks
Any member of Steven’s family is killed or wounded – Two drinks
Steven goes into a church – Two drinks
Any character discusses his CIA or strange past – One drink
Steven won’t tell them about his past when asked – Two drinks
The story takes Steven to Japantown or Chinatown – One drink
That visit then involves eastern medicine or healing (powdered deer penis, anyone?) – Two drinks
Somebody actually manages to hit Steven – One drink for each hit landed
If they also manage to draw blood from Steven – Two drinks
Steven handles firearms like a pro (at your own discretion) – One drink
Steven goes into a restaurant or bar, trashes the joint and its patrons – Two drinks
Steven later returns to that same public place and repeats his performance – Chug
Steven lays down his weapons in order to make the fight ‘fair’ – Two drinks
Steven breaks the bones of a major appendage (arm, leg) – Two drinks
Steven breaks someone’s neck – Three drinks
Steven shows reluctance about getting into a fight – Two drinks
Steven inevitably gets into that fight and kicks butt – One drink
Steven actually backs down – Three drinks
Steven runs – Three drinks
Steven smiles – Three drinks
Steven does that ‘eyebrow thing’ – Three drinks
Steven is not wearing at least one article of clothing that’s black – Chug
Steven doesn’t kill anybody by the end of the movie – Chug and complain to WB Movies
Steven gets killed – Chug the whole damn thing and then finish off your liquor cabinet
got it from the site: http://members.tripod.com/~UnderSiege/
Jan. 1, 2005, 6:24 p.m. CST
hey BRU !
long time no see. i was wondering recently whre you had gone to. i was waiting for a michael bay talkback to get you out of the woodwork he he. i had the same intuition about seagal as you when he first came on the scene. although schwarzie, norris and company seemed to have a sense of humour about themselves, seagal is remarkable in that he has none at all; you could just see that he was drinking this all in and his ego was inflating to the size of a small moon. he wants to watch a guy so obsessed with himself? and he’s a buddhist? anyway, Happy New Year, dude!
Jan. 1, 2005, 7:04 p.m. CST
oops! should have been “WHO wants to see a guy so obsessed with himself?” I wonder whatever happened to the American Ninja guy? Maybe he’s handing out slurpies in the midwest somewhere. (never could stand how he fought with his hands at his side all the time) After Steve James died, he was right to pack it in though. ciao
Jan. 1, 2005, 9:42 p.m. CST
Vern i got a true Segal story for you
No shit, i live in Mobile ,Al and whe he was down here filming Under Seige my uncle who is a big union guy got another family member of ours a job driving him around town.As soon as my uncle picked him up he said “Look i need to find a place here where i can meditate,Is there some Moutains or somewhere peaceful i can go to cleanse my spirit?” Then he said something like he couldn’t wait to beat Tommy Lee Jones Ass,because he wasn’t gonna pull any punches with the old man.There’s alot of people here with some good Steven Segal Stories. I’d still love to see him and Van Damme in a movie together before they get to old.
Jan. 2, 2005, 1:41 a.m. CST
lil junior brown
Thank you for that story bud. Would you mind e-mailing me at email@example.com so I could get your e-mail address? I am seriously collecting Seagal stories so if you know anybody else with good ones let me know. I also got an Under Siege era one from a kid who said Seagal spoke at his school assembly in Mobile.
Jan. 3, 2005, 2:18 p.m. CST
The government has pledged 350 million I believe. American corporations are also giving. Coca Cola pledged $10 million, Exxon Mobil $5 million, Citigroup $3 million, Bill and Milinda Gates Foundaton $3 million, Merck $3 million, Johnson & Jonson $2 million…the list goes on. Aside from U.S. Government money and millions from corporations The American Red Cross notes $18 million in donations. There are somethings that only the government can do…like sending in helicopters and ships. Some estimates say it will cost the U.S. 1.5B to maintain a carrier group in the area which was said to boil down to $125 million a month…I’m sure we’ll be there at least THAT long. USAID Administrator Andrew S. Natsios said in a briefing on Dec. 29, “We actually checked the figures. These are OECD figures, which is the accepted international standard. It’s a standard apples-to-apple contribution for the world. We gave $2.4 billion last year, 40 percent of total contributions by all countries. We are, by far, the largest donor…” I really don’t think we’re stingy as a people. The government my have to think a bit before donating, seeing as it has to keep a military presence in the world to defend countries who cannot defend themselves. But nobody appreciates THAT…Nobody more than us has given more ( blood AND money ) to preserve freedom in the world. I’m not trying to be antagonistic or anything, but I felt that needed to be said. Peace.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.