So once again we have survived.

Attack Force

ATTACK FORCE is Steven Seagal’s latest, where he takes on a bunch of sexy people given super powers by an experimental military drug. But until recently it was listed on IMDb as HARVESTER, where he takes on a bunch of aliens. After I savaged the last one, SHADOW MAN, I got a nice email from Seagal’s co-writer Joe Halpin, who I found very humble and down to earth. Having his ear for a minute I didn’t want to be rude and bury him in an avalanche of questions, but I couldn’t resist asking if this HARVESTER movie would really end up being about aliens, or if they would chicken out like they did with the “biological mutants” that ended up not being in SUBMERGED.

His answer: “Who knows.” He explained that they had shot it both ways. It could be about aliens, it could be about European mobsters, the studio and Seagal would have to come to an agreement in post-production. This of course brings up alot more questions (the main one being “Shouldn’t you decide on the premise before shooting the movie?”) but it also gives a huge amount of insight into how Seagal’s DTV movies end up the way they do. I mean, if they don’t even know who he’s fighting until after they’re done, no wonder they end up with these weird overdubbed lines, randomly dropped story threads, etc.

Attack ForceTo no one’s surprise, they went with European mobsters. But actually I don’t think they hacked up the movie as much as I had figured before hand. These mobsters are treated pretty much as aliens (or actually vampires) – their eyes do a weird CGI effect, they have super strength for throwing people through walls, they use weird high tech weapons. It seems like they mostly left them as is, but changed the explanation for their powers. (And probaly cut out some bad CGI space ship shots here or there.)

In order to take on alien-like drug addicts, Seagal tries something he’s never done before: his former student/love interest gives him state-of-the-art “Nanographite” wrist blades designed to even the score with his opponents’ heightened strength and reflexes. So when he comes face to face with the lead villain he hands his rifle to his buddy Duane and takes out the wrist blades. The fights unfortunately are mostly short and unimpressive, but I do like that they are constantly throwing people through walls. Seagal’s gal Tia even goes through two walls in one toss – a great throw. This guy Duane is pretty tough, he gets thrown through a brick wall and you think he’s out of the picture, but a little bit later he crawls back through the hole in the wall. It’s mostly the drug aliens that do the wallthrowing, but near the end Seagal shows them he is their equal by pushing their drug queen through a wall. With one hand. And it’s his left hand.

There’s a funny line where a trainee says that Seagal “walks with an air of confidence rarely seen in this day and age.” I think this might’ve been meant as a parody of what I call the “Just How Badass Is This Guy?” lines of Seagal’s best movies, because his buddies immediately make fun of him for saying it. The other biggest laugh is when there’s an establishing shot of the Eiffel Tower and then the screen tells as we are in “France, Europe.” This might be a new record for insulting the intelligence of the audience.

My favorite part of the movie is the way it ends, which I’m guessing is not the way poor Seagal or Halpin expected it to end when they shot it. Seagal and his “attack force” track the drug addicts to a cathedral, where they have a series of battles. Eventually eveyone on both sides is dead except for Seagal and one of his teammates. Seagal helps his buddy up and carries him out of the cathedral. There’s a shot of a car driving away. Then it goes to the credits.

There’s no dialogue at all. No discussion of what’s happened, no resolution to any of the plot threads, no acknowledgement that earlier in the movie they said that the water supply had been poisoned and 15,000 people would turn into these alien druggies within 12 hours. And by the way, the shot of the car driving off had already been used earlier in the movie.

I mean, it breaks every rule of common sense and good storytelling, but for some reason I like the brutal simplicity of it. Fight, survive, leave. No need to comment. It’s kind of like that minimalism I liked so much in MIAMI VICE, but I don’t think these guys were doing it as deliberately as Michael Mann was.

That’s the thing, I can’t really complain about the seat-of-the-pants moviemaking methods they use for these, because without that approach we wouldn’t have alot of the weird touches that I like so much about the movies. But this resolution-less ending is an example of the “ah, shit, just throw something together so we can release it” mentality that alot of the fans are getting sick of. In fact the very first thing you will notice about this movie is that alot of Seagal’s lines are dubbed by a different actor, probaly even more than in SUBMERGED. You will notice because his first couple scenes you never hear his real voice at all. There are some scenes just showing the exterior of a car, with this other actor’s voice over a radio, and we’re supposed to pretend we are watching Seagal.

And that makes me wonder something. For some reason I had always assumed it was Seagal who was resisting doing movies about mutants and aliens. He has a strong idea of what a Seagal movie is about, and that’s part of what I like about him. That’s Seagalogy. Some people see it as repetitive, I see it as badass auteurism. Putting his stamp on the movies. But after SUBMERGED and ATTACK FORCE I’m beginning to wonder if actually it is the producers or the studios who are preventing Seagal from stretching his legs out a little. Because both movies have their original sci-fi elements removed, and both have many scenes overdubbed by a different actor. Couldn’t this mean that Seagal wanted to leave the mutants and the aliens, and didn’t want any part in redubbing scenes to change the storyline around? It makes you wonder.

Before I was able to rent this one I got two emails telling me it was the worst movie Seagal had ever made, a real piece of shit. Both specified that they even enjoyed SHADOW MAN. Well, I think I see where they’re coming from. There’s just not enough Seagal in this movie. He does a bare minimum, the lowest amount he can get away with and still seem like the star. Not much fighting, not always appearing (or speaking) in his own scenes, no speeches. They don’t even bother to give any background to his character – not that I’m against that, but he just becomes such a small presence in the movie.

And that’s why the movie doesn’t work, but I don’t agree that it’s his worst. It’s the same director as SHADOW MAN but it’s better directed – more atmosphere, more restrained editing, better music, nice lighting. And somehow more cohesive than some recent ones such as SUBMERGED. But most of all, the weirdness of the not-aliens, the wallthrowing, the wrist blades and the abrupt ending give it a little bit of novelty. Still, it’s for serious Seagalogists only. Not for amateurs.

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 Thursday, December 14th, 2006 at 3:20 am and is filed under Action, Horror, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit, Seagal, Thriller. 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.

12 Responses to “Attack Force”

  1. I learned so much about my own country watching this movie. Apparently every car in France has a licence plate from Mayenne, there’s a suspension bridge on the Seine, you can drive from Paris on the continental mainland to Bastia in Corsica just using the A88 highway, and the French police do not introduce themselves to suspects as “Police nationale”, but as “local police”.

  2. The Original... Paul

    October 12th, 2014 at 11:09 am

    So I’m continuing my recently-restarted look at Seagal’s movies with “Attack Force”. It’s a timely look, given the close proximety of Halloween: I’m about 30 minutes in and it already looks like a proper horror show. On the plus side, so far we’ve had glimpses of one evil ninja vampire chick (not quite sure what she’s supposed to be yet), and one glum-looking guy with wrist blades.

    I’m usually really bad at spotting Seagal’s dubs, but this time he sounds like he’s being voiced by an eighty-year-old Burt Reynolds impersonator. (I just made it sound so much cooler than it actually is.) The movie also manages to start off with an action scene where I have no idea which side Seagal’s supposed to be on or who I’m even supposed to be rooting for until it’s almost over. And the action is just dark and badly-edited enough that you can’t tell what the heck is going on or where or who anybody is. It does have that guy with a rather nice wrist-knife gadget (I’m all for unusual weaponry in action films), but he only gets about twenty seconds to fight Seagal, and the editing kills it.

    Cliches spotted so far:

    “So this is what it’s like, making a deal with the devil.”
    “You have no idea what you’re getting into.”
    “This is the best night of my life!” (dies.)

    And about fifty thousand more.

  3. The Original... Paul

    October 12th, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Ok, so the evil ninja vampire chick can teleport? Are you SURE they didn’t go with the “aliens” thing after all?

  4. The Original... Paul

    October 12th, 2014 at 11:37 am

    “Our low-orbiting recon has determined the parameters of their activities”.

    Seriously, what the unholy fuck does that mean?! Just as well the evil vampire alien ninja chick appears for a jump-scare right after that line, otherwise someone might actually be tempted to try and work it out. And that someone would go utterly insane.

    Also, the (first?) fight between Seagal and evil vampire alien ninja chick takes place entirely in avid farts.

    Might be a bit late for a “spoiler warning” here, since I’m pretty much commenting on what I’m watching as I’m watching it. But hey, spoilers.

    Later… one way you can tell a bad straight-to-DVD movie is that there’s no sympathy ever demonstrated by the “tough military guys”. The French policeman walks up to one of them, showing him photos of three dead French police officers. And all the military guy has to say about it is “You’ll have to take it up with my superior”? That’s it? Not a “I’m sorry about your men”? Not even a grimace at the state of the bodies? I mean c’mon now. It’s little details like that that give better films than “Attack Force” some humanity.

  5. The Original... Paul

    October 12th, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Ok, not-Seagal just gave THREE ridiculous action movie cliches in three consecutive sentences. And real-Seagal looked utterly bored while miming them. “It’s either them or us… first come, first served.” I’m honestly surprised he didn’t add in a “Let’s get out of here!” as an ad-lib at the end.

    I’m not quite sure why I don’t hate this movie, but it’s way more entertaining than “Submerged” despite a total lack of anything to “pull you in”. I guess I just have a weakness for possibly-vampire ninja chicks or something.

  6. The Original... Paul

    October 12th, 2014 at 11:55 am

    Ok, just saw three seconds of greatness. Specifically:

    – Two grunts try to kick down a set of double-doors.
    – Left door flexes and then crumples like part of a plywood stage set (which it is). Real doors don’t act like that! At least, not the kind meant to keep people out!
    – Second grunt kicks the right door with his lead foot, then steps through. Door swings back, BOUNCES, and slaps the ass of the grunt who’s stepping through it, gun raised. Gun butt-checks the door like Chuck freakin’ Rock.

    (And yes, they do add a dramatic “door smash” sound-effect to the butt-check as well as the initial door kick. I freakin’ love the attention to detail displayed by the sound effects guy, so unfortunately undone by the complete and utter failure of the guy whose job it was to make the costume-doors not look like cardboard sheets.)

    Did I mention that this one three-second scene takes three separate takes and a “strobe flash” avid-fart to get through? Man, this is hilarious.

    In the interests of fairness, I should probably mention that it took me something like fifty seconds to realise that this scene still took place at Seagal’s hideout and that the grunts were working for the bad guys to raid his place, and weren’t working for him to raid the bad guys’ place. (In the previous scene they were talking about an attack on the bad guys.) So that’s… not great. What is it with this film and lack of clarity about who’s actually fighting who?

  7. The Original... Paul

    October 12th, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Holy fucking shit, I just heard Seagal’s character use septugenarian-Burt-Reynolds voice and Seagal’s own voice IN THE SAME SCENE. With a few seconds separating them. Whyyy??!!!

  8. The Original... Paul

    October 12th, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Yeah I think my brain has given up at this point. As has the movie, at least in terms of creating any attempt at convincing me that any of this shit is real. It’s kinda endearing.

    So there are three back-to-back scenes of a convoy of military vehicles travelling down a road at night. In the first scene, the road and sky are perfectly clear. In the second scene, the vehicles’ headlights are shown clearly through the “fog”. For atmosphere, I guess. For the third scene, perfect clarity again – no fog. So where’d all that fog suddenly come from?

    Well thankfully the movie isn’t hesitant to provide answers to deep philosophical questions like this. See, VERY clearly coming out of the side of one of the trucks is a giant plume of artificial fog. We’re not even talking exhaust fumes here – none of the other trucks have this shit coming out of them, and there’s far far too much of it to be just exhaust.

    So what I’m basically saying is, not only did they only bother to only use fog in one of the “convoy” scenes – that are supposed to take place in the same area and at roughly the same time – but THEY DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO HIDE THE FOG MACHINE. It’s right there in the damn truck!

    …I have no words at this point.

  9. The Original... Paul

    October 12th, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Well, it’s over. I kinda liked it.

    First things first… I can’t believe the final boss. (Convenient clothing damage!) Also, both the good and bad guys had some serious issues of tactics in that final fight – hell, they make the guys / monster from “The Thing” look smart. (Yeah, I still love “The Thing”, but everything between “the test” and that final scene kinda sucks. Apart from the face thing. Face thing was good. Anyway…) If you’re up against a force that’s totally reliant on isolation and stealth to kill you, you probably shouldn’t be splitting up. Makes sense, right?

    So how was it?

    Seriously, there’s no way this is as dull as “The Patriot” or “Submerged” or “Mercenary for Justice”, and it sure as heck ain’t as obnoxiously bad as “Kill Switch”. I think the fact that parts of the film clearly had zero effort put into them, whereas other parts look like whoever did them was going all-out for it to be their best job ever, end up in a bizarre mismatch that’s kinda interesting in terms of how it fails to fit together. There’s some really nice stuff done with the sound and scoring. The action is pathetic – this film has avid farts coming out of its ass – and Seagal is barely used. It’s not a patch on any of the Seagal films that are actually good – “Exit Wounds”, “Marked for Death”, “Fire Down Below”, “Under Siege”, etc – but it’s not devoid of entertainment value either.

    I’d put this one on the same approximate level as “Against the Dark”, which is convenient since both films also contain ambiguous maybe-vampires. Some people are absolutely going to hate it, and I can see why. For me… it wasn’t as worthless as others might suggest. Not good Seagal – barely Seagal at all actually – but it’s watchable. Put that on the DVD cover!

  10. The Original... Paul

    October 13th, 2014 at 2:54 am

    By the way, I’ve noticed that in my write-up above, I’ve categorised one fight scene as being filmed “entirely in avid farts”. But Vern’s said in his review that the film is avid-fart free. Now I’ve always thought of avid farts as being weird transitions, including strobe flashes, and quitefire cutting and editing / tempo changes that serve no functional purpose. The scene I’m thinking of has those in spades. What’s going on? Have I misconstrued the meaning of the term “avid fart” for the last several years? This is an extremely important question.

  11. Your description of the definition sounds accurate, but I don’t remember the scene you’re talking about or what I said about it so I can’t really defend my statement.

  12. The Original... Paul

    October 14th, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    That’s ok, thanks for getting back to me. I went back and rewatched that part of the film (the first Seagal-vamp lady fight), which isn’t as avid-fart-icious as I’d remembered. I think the editing lets it down though. If this editing is a drastic improvement on “Shadow Man” then I got no idea what I’m in for when I get around to watching that.

    Speaking of which, I’ve not got that many Seagals to go now before I’m up to date as far as the end of Seagalogy (the first edition). So that’s one life goal nearing completion!

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