THE KEEPER is Steven Seagal’s new movie, still no release date in the U.S. but already released in England, where Seagal is so popular they even published a groundbreaking book that chronologically analyzes all his works up to PISTOL WHIPPED. This one isn’t as strong as RENEGADE JUSTICE (URBAN JUSTICE to us Americans) or PISTOL WHIPPED, and not much better than the okay DRIVEN TO KILL, but don’t worry, it’s much better than the less-than-half-assed AGAINST THE DARK and the Guinness Book of World Records-worthy all time most disorienting editing of KILL SWITCH.
The pace is slow and it’s light on weirdness (at least KILL SWITCH has that crazy twist ending) but overall a fairly solid effort. Seagal continues his Old Charles Bronson phase, and as I re-watch parts of it to write this review I find myself really appreciating the little character moments, a sign of a DTV that’s gonna grow on me in repeat viewings.
Seagal plays Roland Sallinger, an L.A. cop forced to retire after his partner shoots him over some drug money. Luckily an old friend from the Romanian police force hires him to come to Bucharest to bodyguard his daughter, whose boyfriend is the star forward on the Tornadoes football team. Just kidding – that’s what it says on the back of the DVD, but in the actual movie he goes to Texas and the boyfriend is a famous boxer. That’s a better setting in my opinion, although it fails to communicate what the box says about the gang problems being rooted in the fall of communism.
So yes, he gets a big white cowboy hat and goes down to Texas to protect his friend’s daughter (Liezl Carstens, who was also in URBAN JUSTICE and looks alot like Krista from BLADE: THE SERIES) from kidnappers working for a corrupt business rival and alleged white/Hispanic separatist. This is one of those movies where they say the bad guy’s racist just to make him more hateable and then don’t really back it up, like the way THE PATRIOT tells you the militia men are neo-Nazis without showing any evidence.
Some of the old Seagalogy motifs discussed in that popular English book are back in play. No CIA background, but he does have a fight in a bar and speaks a bunch of Spanish (not just phrases but also an entire subtitled conversation). It seems like it’s headed toward the traditional DTV Era awkward-love-scene-with-much-younger-woman, but that goes unrealized. The girl the Keeper Keeps seems to get a crush on him, but he doesn’t go for her. And I’m glad, because she remembers him buying her gifts when she was a little girl. It would’ve been creepy.
One thing I like about this movie is that it’s the opposite of those murky Seagal cloak and dagger deals I got so sick of a couple years ago. The Keeper can see through people, he knows who to trust (except for that partner that shot him) and the movie extends those powers to us. So the girl’s famous boxer boyfriend who seems like an asshole really will betray her, and everybody who seems nice won’t. It’s funny because he has so many people being nice to him I figured one of them would have to stab him in the back. The old friend and the limo driver even start acting suspicious. But the Keeper makes them explain themselves and everybody stays loyal. It’s kind of sweet.
I’m not saying he’s a “Promise Keeper,” but the Keeper does keep his promises and his loyalties. He’s a good friend.
I also like that it’s kind of like HARD TO KILL but how he would handle it now that he’s older and more experienced. Now he just takes care of shit right away instead of coming back 7 years later for revenge. He kills the guy who betrayed him while he’s still in his hospital bed. (There are 2 early scenes where he fakes being unconscious and looks like a kid faking sleep, looking around and then closing his eyes before someone sees him). Then he just does normal physical therapy like anybody else, and a little bit of the ol’ at home training. Now he has to wear reading glasses when he prepares his guns, he sighs alot and even looks at himself in the mirror and shakes his head. But since he already took care of the revenge he can forget about the partner who shot him and use the rest of the movie for a totally separate adventure.
The action is middle of the road. It’s mostly Seagal’s quick aikido pummelings, shot a little too close. There’s some gore and a vehicle chase that I thought was pretty good despite alot of greenscreened driving shots. I like that he gets in some fights unrelated to the main plot, like when the limo driver stops because some thugs are threatening his hot cousin. That’s in the tradition of the old HARD TO KILL stopping-at-a-liquor-store-during-a-robbery. I also got a laugh when the girl has been abducted and he storms into a house and kills two guys… who are hanging out with the weasely boyfriend who sold her out to save his own skin. At first you assume these are the bastards holding her hostage, but no, they’re just the boyfriend’s buddies. Sorry guys, you’re dead.
THE KEEPER isn’t bad, but it’s not one of the movies where Seagal goes the extra mile. In fact, not even the full mile. His first lines of dialogue are dubbed by someone else, and there are several obvious uses of a back-of-the-head double. On the other hand, he completely owns the role of The Keeper, or at least the packaging claims so: STEVEN SEAGAL IS THE KEEPER. (Unfortunately it doesn’t say that on the credits, so I can’t add it to my short list of “is” movies.)
By the way, I know everybody hated the cover for the original self-published version of Seagalogy, but I think it’s looking more and more prophetic:
I swear, with one of these movies they’re accidentally gonna make it exactly the same as my cover, even more than THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS.
One missed opportunity is with this prick boyfriend. He’s supposed to be this famous boxer, obviously Seagal should fist fight him toward the end. But not only does this guy not box with Seagal, he doesn’t really box with anyone after he’s introduced in the ring. And he doesn’t look tough, either. They could’ve done better with this character.
I like the scene where Roland practices with his throwing knives and has trouble getting them to stick. And I like how quiet and modest he is for most of the movie. He’s got a few quips, but for the most part isn’t as cocky as Seagal’s usual characters. The girl says he seems lonely, and it’s true. I bet his partner was his best friend, and now there’s just a hole there. He keeps thinking “man, I gotta tell Trevor about this” and then remembers that he’s never gonna see Trevor again because he killed him. And rightfully so.
For these recent Seagal pictures I’ve been saving the stats for when and if I ever do an update of SEAGALOGY, but this one has a “Just How Badass Is This Guy?” worth quoting: “I’ve seen you do shit that’s beyond belief. Hell, you’re the inspiration for every guy that ever applied for the SWAT team.” I’m not sure how inspirational THE KEEPER is, but it’s good enough that for Seagal fans like me it keeps hope alive.
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.