I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Today You Die

It goes without saying that TODAY YOU DIE is Steven Seagal’s greatest movie title since at least OUT FOR A KILL. So I won’t bother to say it. Isn’t it awesome though? The movie itself is worth the time of any Seagalogist, but at least on my first viewing here it’s not one of the more crucial ones. It’s more competent than most straight to video movies (especially Seagal’s, lately) but not legitimately great. So, without anything really special or truly ludicrous, it ends up kind of forgettable. But it has its moments.

SUBMERGED flirted with being Seagal’s first monster movie (they cut out the CGI mutants before finishing the movie) and this one threatens to be a rare supernatural storyline. I won’t say his first because he did have some voodoo and shaolin magic in BELLY OF THE BEAST. There were also voodoo curses used by the villains in MARKED FOR DEATH, but it came off more like some cold mafia threat type shit than actual working magic. Anyway the opening scene here is a tarot card reading. I expected the card reader to say “Today you die,” but no dice. In fact, she had a surprisingly honest explanation of the DEATH card, which she said can mean different things. You gotta admire a straight shooting tarot card reader.

Today You DieThen we get some nightmares. Seagal’s young, beautiful girlfriend and/or wife Jada is some kind of psychic who’s having dreams of him holding a gun and having some kind of vague trouble. He consoles her and offers to do some dream interpretation later. (Unfortunately we never get to see this.)

It turns out Jada’s worries aren’t that farfetched because Seagal is a professional Robin Hood. He rapels into a drug dealer’s mansion and cracks the safe. When some hoods try to interfere, he explains that he gives the money to the poor. Of course this is followed by some broken wrists, some broken furniture, etc. And it will surprise nobody that this is one of those drug dealer mansions decorated with many antique Japanese swords, which end up being used. That’s why you’re supposed to lock up your swords, dope dealers. Come on.

Seagal promises Jada that he’s gonna stop doing this shit, go straight. It’s tough though, because he likes to help people. You can see how much it pains him when he passes a children’s hospital with “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS” plastered onto the sign.

No problem though. A guy named Max (Kevin Tigue) gives him a job driving an armored car in Vegas – not telling him he’s actually the getaway driver for a very ridiculous robbery. I mean these fucks really blow it. Apparently the armored car service is a fake, but somehow they are credentialed and manage to pick up $20 million from some marks. For that they deserve nothing but kudos, because it takes skill and balls to pull off something like that. Now all they have left to do is drive away. But right when they’re about to pull out, Seagal’s partner Bruno whips out a piece and blows away the guards, giving himself away! It’s not played like a Mr. Blonde style psycho move either, but as the actual plan. I mean I could quibble about the idea of hiring an unwitting getaway driver. That just doesn’t seem like good planning. But shooting people for no reason just as you are leaving undetected – I mean, somebody should’ve realized this particular part of the plan was counterproductive.

Anyway, like RESERVOIR DOGS the cops are right there. Seagal goes ahead and makes a drive for it, ditching the pigs just long enough to leave his partner Bruno unconscious, hide the money somewhere and pass out.

At this point the movie takes a HALF PAST DEAD detour and becomes a prison movie for a little while. It’s not a futuristic prison though, a little more standard, with rapper-turned-actor Treach as his buddy instead of rapper-turned actor Ja Rule. Playing the character “Ice Kool,” I would have to rate Treach as Seagal’s second best rapper sidekick to date, above Ja Rule but below DMX. Treach is the star of one of the better straight to video movies I’ve seen, LOVE AND A BULLET. He’s charismatic and his line readings are probaly smoother than DMX’s in EXIT WOUNDS but I still think DMX has some powerful movie star presence that has not been fully taken advantage of and that other rapper-turned-actors shouldn’t bother to compete with. Still, good job Treach. I would say “kudos” but I already used that word earlier and I have to wonder what in hell I was thinking using the word “kudos” in the first place. What the fuck is a kudo anyway?

While in the joint, the police are trying to find out where the money is, but he pretends not to remember. For some reason, everyone including the police think that Max is dead. We didn’t see this, but supposedly he got shot by someone for not having the money Seagal stole. In the one really beautifully dumb moment of the movie, one of the cops describes Max as a “low life freak who dabbles in black magic.” This is the only indication in the whole movie that Max is anything other than a standard Vegas kingpin type. The black magic is never mentioned again*. My only theory is that maybe Max was originally going to be resurrected from the dead in some Dracula type ritual. That would’ve been cool, but they end up just saying he wasn’t really dead. I guess that’s more economical storytelling.

Anyway Bruno shows up in prison and they fight. Seagal comes out of that one better than Bruno does. Meanwhile, Ice Kool is the leader of a small black gang in this joint and when Seagal tips him off about the Hispanic gang’s plans, he earns a place in the Ice Kool escape plan (some guy picks them up in a fake police helicopter). It’s not just a favor for a favor though, Seagal promises to “remember” where the money is because he’d “be happy to share.”

I liked this aspect – Seagal really is a Robin Hood type, he’s not greedy at all. He genuinely does not have any hesitation about splitting his score with somebody who had no part in it. You don’t usually see that kind of charity in movies. Also there’s a dose of Seagal loyalty. They need to split up but Ice worries he’s just gonna ditch him and not give him the money. Seagal tells him sincerely, “Listen man, you did me right, I’ma do you right.”

Another thing that’s unique about this movie, he has a better relationship with his wife (?) than usual. He’s constantly calling her to let her know what he’s up to. Even while escaping from the cops. Maybe he’s starting to realize how lucky he is to always have a beautiful woman half his age, and he wants to show his gratitude.

Treach gets most of the good lines, such as “Same shit, different toilet.” He also gets the title line: “Oh, you ran out of gas? Ah, hell no, today you die motherfucker! Little bitch.” At the end he funds the children’s hospital’s “GRAND RE-OPENING” and has a conversation with a nun** where he keeps saying things like “Feel me?,” “Ya heard?,” and “belie’ dat.”

Seagal has some funny moments though. He knocks on the front door at Max’s place and the security guy asks “Who are you?” He says, “Uh… Girl Scouts of America.” Okay, doesn’t sound good, but I liked his delivery. I wouldn’t say the same for his attempts at ebonics, though. Ice tells him he’s a cold motherfucker and he says, “Ice cool, ya’all.”

With a title like TODAY YOU DIE, I wish it was a little more ridiculous. But you gotta commend Seagal for expending some elbow grease. Although he’s being sued by the producers for allegedly fucking up this movie (not showing up, rewriting the script without permission, etc.) it definitely seems like his heart is more in it than his last couple, uh, efforts. There is a reasonable level of action (several fights, a car chase, some fairly spectacular flaming police car flips). The movie strays a little bit from the usual formula (not even one mention of the CIA!). Also I didn’t notice any parts dubbed by other actors. Maybe that Lightning Bolt energy drink really does work!

I do have to scold the DVD producers though for not close captioning the sucker. I like to hear every line, and the way Seagal slurs some of his words that’s just not a possibility. So thanks alot, assholes. Today you suck.

*That would’ve been funny but I have to correct this. I must’ve fallen asleep the first time I watched this because in the final showdown with Max, he makes a vague speech that makes it clear he has some kind of deal with magic, even though it doesn’t amount to anything. It was funnier the first time I watched it, too bad I paid more attention the second time.

**actually he says that to a woman at a Swiss bank, not to a nun. Man, I need some Lightning Bolt.

My apologies to Steven Seagal and all readers for these errors

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.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2005 at 12:15 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews, Seagal. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

10 Responses to “Today You Die”

  1. played down my hilarious mood after this one, when i read chapter in saegal-bible about it. actionscenes where taken from other movies. guess it makes this even little funnier. lots of laughs when steven with his casual clothes beats inmates up in a prison and like a nap escapes there like nothing. cool. no drilling concrete with wooden stick or some other alcatraz-stuff.

  2. This is on TV in the UK right now. In the fight scene in the house, right after Seagal makes the ‘girl scouts’ quip, it’s two scenes spliced together! He’s wearing a long brown leather jacket, but in a couple of moments he’s in a black suit with blue shirt, and looks to be in a whole other room! I’ve never seen that anywhere before. That was pretty hilarious.

  3. The Original Paul

    July 16th, 2015 at 1:55 am

    Ok… so I’ve just had a re-watch of UNDER SIEGE 2, for commemorative reasons you understand; and it put me in the mood for a little more Seagal. Five minutes of this one has convinced me that it deserves the ATTACK FORCE treatment – running commentary. So here we go!

    1) Seagal’s girlfriend regards tarot cards, dreams, random objects spotted in shop windows, and probably a great many other things, as accurate and literal predictors of future events. I think she may actually be clinically insane.

    2) Why the fuck wasn’t the long-haired guy who attacks Seagal in the druglord’s house the main villain? This guy was freaking hilarious. I haven’t seen this much ham in a Seagal film since MARKED FOR DEATH’s Screwface. I love this guy. This actor realises he’s got a grand total of about four lines before he dies, so goddammit he’s going to give enough delivery to them for the entire rest of the movie.

    3) Seagal grabs the guy’s gun – with his bare hands – then drops it on the floor. Thereby leaving his fingerprints nicely and conveniently for any passing police officers / drug lords who might want to ask him about the two guys he just murdered while robbing their employer’s house. I’m pretty sure this makes him two hammers short of a toolbox.

    4) After he’s killed the two guys (including long-haired thug – noooo!) Seagal cooly and calmly walks out, in the most badass manner possible, to triumphantly swelling orchestral music – only to be sucker-punched as soon as he reaches the door. Ok, movie, you got me – that was hilarious.

    5) The guy who attacks Seagal from close-up is also the only one of the three ambushers carrying a gun. His two pals wait for Seagal to break his neck before intervening. (I don’t know why they don’t help their colleague out, so I choose to believe they’d just found out that he’d slept with their wives. From the little I saw of him before Seagal separated his head from the rest of him, he looked like the “type”. I think it’s the pimp-‘stache.)

    6) Remember I pointed out the fact that the evil crime lord had a massive martial arts dojo, complete with swords, inside his house in BEST OF THE BEST 4? Well here’s another drug lord with dojo! Also including swords! I think I may have spotted a new trend.

    Man, I’m about eight minutes into this thing and it’s already had more awesome in it than the entirety of SUBMERGED, AGAINST THE DARK, KILL SWITCH and THE PATRIOT combined. Can it possibly keep this up?

  4. The Original Paul

    July 16th, 2015 at 2:43 am

    Continuing…

    7) Seagal’s character’s name is Harlan? Seriously?

    8) Immediately after crazy girlfriend has had visions of mirrors in her house predicting her death, Seagal gets a monologue about how a new start is exactly what they need. Yep, I’m sure nothing at all will go wrong here.

    9) Hey, it’s Kevin Tighe! Seagal’s new employer has a permanent leer and gravelly voice. I’m pretty sure he could say “Hey babe, fancy a back rub?” and it would still sound like the most sinister thing on the planet. Also, one of his thugs (who I’m pretty sure was recruited directly off Blackpool Pier after posing as Elvis) calls Seagal’s girlfriend “trailer trash” before they’ve actually left the room. Say, d’you remember that moment in the ON DEADLY GROUND bar-fight when Seagal took a ninety-year old man, grabbed him by the bollocks, hoisted him over his head by them, then smashed him through a table? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s about to be repeated with Elvis.

    10) Seagal’s obviously not-villainous partner on the courier job successfully cons two security guards into handing over five suitcases full of (I presume) money, loading them into his truck, and letting him get into the passenger seat. So naturally he shoots them in full view of their partners so that the alarm can be raised immediately. Criminals really aren’t very smart in this movie, are they?

    11) “This was supposed to go down quietly!” Well this is what you get when you employ trigger-happy con-artists.

    12) “What we have here is a failure to communicate”. That quote is thrown in for no good reason. It doesn’t even fit the scene that it’s in.

    13) Did Seagal just kill half the city’s police force? Some…how? (Yeah, I have no idea how any of those cars ended up exploding.)

    14) Based on the three female police officers I’ve seen so far, I would have to say that Las Vegas has the sexiest police force on the planet. (The TV show CSI would later confirm this theory.) Talking of CSI, the police keep questioning Seagal after he requests legal aid… isn’t that against some kind of constitutional ruling or something?

    15) “Cops were injured”. Or evaporated in a giant fireball – what’s the difference, anyhow?

    16) Now it’s “Three police officers were killed”. along with the other thirty or so who were in those cop cars that exploded? Giant fireball, anybody? Hello? Seriously, am I the only person who remembers that thing?

    17) The people cheering Seagal’s prison entrance are the most cliche’d group of crazies I’ve seen for a while. And they’re still not as nuts as his girlfriend.

  5. The Original Paul

    July 16th, 2015 at 3:05 am

    Ugh, so this turned from a very entertaining heist movie into a very boring prison movie, right quick. The one bright spot is Treach. But man, this thing has every prison movie cliche in the business, and none of them are played for entertainment purposes.

    Here’s what I’m liking about the movie so far though – whoever wrote the dialogue has an ear for the bizarre. Although sometimes this backfires. “He’s had a little homo promo” and “What’s up with the white cat?” being particularly cringeworthy.

    …And just as I write that, Treach and Seagal kill a guy, set his car on fire, then do a classic buddy-walk away from the explosion. And we’re back on track!

    I’m gonna take a break in the middle of this one now… three hours of Seagal in the morning is more than enough for one session.

  6. The Original Paul

    July 16th, 2015 at 9:26 am

    Ok, here we go again.

    18) It’s beginning to look as though Saunders is the worst police Mole in the history of police Moles.

    19) So a criminal who knows Harlan is out for revenge has him in his sights, at gunpoint, at a distance. Why not shoot the guy in the damn leg? What did he think was going to happen?

    And now that it’s over…

    20) Harlan is a “Robin Hood” character with a higher body count than the first four DIE HARD villains (including a whole bunch of police officers who presumably didn’t have a clue that Saunders was dirty, and just wanted to go home to their wives and kids). At the end of the film the money is still officially missing, Harlan and Ice are still officially escaped convicts, Jana is still bonkers, and I don’t even have a clue what the deal is with the FBI agent he’s been tipping off. But screw all of that, let’s have a happy ending in a home for orphans! To show Harlan’s softer side!

    …Ok, prison section aside, this was hilarious. More completently-made than ATTACK FORCE, I can safely say that this is one of my favorites of Seagal’s DTV era so far. It’s not good – in fact I’m pretty sure it’s stupid on a level that I can’t adequately describe in words – and it unfortunately wastes Kevin Tighe (whose final confrontation with Seagal is one big let-down). Treach is great, as is a lot of the dialogue, which gives this film more charm than the likes of SUBMERGED.

    Yeah, I liked this one. Actual effort was put into making it entertaining, and the result feels less accidental than something like ATTACK FORCE. Well done, Seagal and obvious stunt-double!

  7. Does no one besides me think it’s funny that Seagal’s big prison fight in this one is with a scrawny, grumbly old man?

  8. I haven’t watched this in forever, you guys are making me want to watch it again. Paul, did you catch the Randy Couture cameo? I didn’t see that in your write-up, but maybe I missed it. I didn’t know who he was at the time this came out, so I was surprised to learn about it years later.

    I think I told you guys this before, but Kevin Tighe lives in or near Seattle and I’ve seen him a bunch. I think it’s funny because he’s so good at playing assholes, but in person he seems like the nicest, most humble guy. I’ve never tried to talk to him about his work, but I do have a buddy who got him to sign a copy of ROAD HOUSE, which reportedly he is as proud of as you would hope.

  9. The Original Paul

    July 16th, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Mr S – I definitely agree with you, but I think Bruno’s scrawniness (he looks in his fifties though – not sure about “old”) is one of the least-remarkable things about the movie so I let it slide.

    And as I pointed out, Seagal definitely has a history of beating up old guys in his movies. The highlight, of course, is his ripping what looks like a five-foot-two white-haired octagenarian’s balls off in the bar fight at the beginning of ON DEADLY GROUND. Oucha.

    Vern – nope, but I think I woulda recognised Randy Couture if I’d realised he was in it. I barely recognised him in THE EXPENDABLES either. For some reason he just doesn’t seem that photogenic, I never seem to notice it’s him. Or maybe it’s just because I’ve been an MMA fan for years, so I’m used to seeing him inside the octagon, and he seems like a totally different character outside of it.

  10. The Original Paul

    July 16th, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Incidentally, I didn’t recheck SEAGALOGY for this one ’cause I wanted to be surprised. I love how exactly the same things – the girlfriend’s insanity, Seagal’s lack of gloves, the drug kingpin’s swords, Tighe being the most obviously evil man in the universe, the totally unresolved ending – occurred to both of us when watching this film. And what the heck was up with the black magic stuff?

    I dunno if I would have guessed that this one had bits from other movies in them (I’ve seen UNDISPUTED, but all American prison movies seem to look much the same anyway) but there were a lot of parts, especially during action sequences, where Seagal’s face was notably absent. I assumed that this was because Seagal was using a stunt-double, but honestly it could’ve been Peter Dinklage or Pamela Anderson in that suit and I wouldn’t have been able to tell.

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