The LAWMAN season finale is on tonight, so before that airs I thought I should catch up on reviewing the previous two episodes. The show continues to be interesting to Seagalogists, each time throwing in a few new elements instead of simply repeating itself. These episodes include shit-talking Jean-Claude Van Damme, being mistaken for another famous action star, a sad look at the War on Drugs and a genuinely cute moment that will make you say “Aaaahhhhh, that was a genuinely cute moment.”
Episode 11: Street Justice
Seagal and Johnny Fortunato drive around grimly talking about “the depth and magnitude of the devastation” during Katrina and what it was like to be there. Then they get a call from a narcotics officer that they’re about to serve a warrant at a suspected dealer’s home. The Squad go meet with the narc, even look through photos like on TV. All the cops stare stone-faced during the briefing, except Seagal, who winces and says “eeeeegghh” when he hears there are five children in the house.
But they really act like he’s done this before and it’s normal for him to be there. And it’s to his credit that he’s not talking tough about busting the guy, but instead about “keeping everybody safe” when they do the raid.
The cops all drive up in the back of a van, hustle out to the building and make everybody get on the ground. Seagal tells everybody to “calm down” as they find the suspect, “Chunky.” Everything goes well, but Seagal is visibly upset at the sight of a bunch of kids hanging around a (alleged) drug dealer. A woman keeps yelling at them but everybody else is quiet and peaceful and nobody points out that Seagal is Seagal.
Larry Dyess talks to one of the guys who was hanging around about how he doesn’t need to get in trouble because his kids need him. Seagal awkwardly comforts a little girl: “Everything alright baby. Everything cool. Everything fine.”
Chunky turns out to have some pot and a little bit of cocaine, not the huge amount they seemed to expect. But Seagal talks about the arrest in positive terms: “We hope that this gentleman can clean up his act and be a good role model.”
Later, Seagal talks with Eddie Compass, a guy he worked with during Katrina who now works with at risk youth. “You handled your business,” Eddie says. “You know my tactical guys, they had nothing but praise for what you did.” I love these scenes because they remind me of Seagal’s movies, how he always has the old buddies who help him with things, but also it reminds me of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, that he goes around and visits people in different professions to show the kids at home what goes on in the neighborhood.
Eddie and Seagal look at a fucked up ghost town of a neighborhood that used to be a vibrant area before the hurricane. They decide that Seagal can help by making an appearance at Eddie’s karate school.
During night patrol, Fortunato tries his best to start a feud between Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme. He starts by making fun of Van Damme for allegedly falling off a motorcycle and having “about 40 aides helping him.” (That could be during the shooting of HARD TARGET or maybe UNTIL DEATH, both take place in New Orleans.) Johnny asks Seagal about a rumor that he once got in a fight with Van Damme.
“No,” Seagal smirks. “It’d be like me squashing an ant.”
Johnny says he read it in the Enquirer or something, gets Larry to say what he heard, egging Seagal on.
“Oh, come on,” Seagal says. “If he sees me he runs.”
Since Seagal is the producer of this show I imagine he could’ve gotten that part removed if he wanted. I hope it’s part of an intentional move to start a fake feud between him and Van Damme, but I doubt it. The fascination about who would win between Van Damme and Seagal is a common one. People ask me that all the time, and they always send me a script some guy wrote where they’re portrayed as jealous has-beens who hate each other (I could never finish it because the guy doesn’t seem to be very familiar with either of their work, it just seemed condescending and not very funny. But maybe it gets better.) I’ve never really understood the fascination because honestly I like both of them and would rather see them be buddies. Can’t we all just get along?
But okay, yes, if they fought I think Seagal would crush Jean-Claude. Nothing against Van Damme, who you guys know I’m a big fan of too, but Seagal’s size and the simplicity of his martial art would seem to have the advantage to me. Van Damme’s acrobatic moves wouldn’t have much room in that battle so what good would they be? Seagal would quickly slap him down, I think. Hopefully afterwards they would bond like Forest Taft and Big Mike and Van Damme would be able to become a positive role model, like Chunky.
In the West Bank, a “drug area,” Seagal says, “The drug slingers, they all work in the shadows. For as long as I’ve been doing this, I try to be able to see into the shadows.” Cue Seagal Sense, but he doesn’t sense anything worth mentioning, which seems to happen alot in these later episodes.
They get a tip about a motel again, so they check it out. They pull some confused guys out of a room, but all they find is crack pipes. Wait, crack? Us? Who knows, maybe they just collect pipes. Seagal doesn’t buy it though and points out the evidence, “Just so you know we didn’t fall off a fuckin turnip truck last night.”
There’s a funny moment where the phone rings and Alex answers it. Then they find nine rocks. “That’s what I’m talkin bout, baby.” They test the rocks for cocaine, and when they turn the correct color Alex says, “You’re pregnant.” As they cuff the suspect he boasts about the meaning of his “13 1/2” tattoo: “It stands for 12 jurors, 1 judge and half a chance I might get out.” The cops just laugh.
In the daylight, Seagal visits the Blue Lion Karate Academy. He hugs everybody and is introduced as “Grand Master Steven Seagal.” He watches the kid’s katas, gives a few tips and talks to them about how proud he is.
And that’s when we get what will likely be the most adorable moment ever in this series even if it runs for 22 seasons. A little girl raises her hand and timidly asks, “Were you – were you shy when you, when you first did your lessons?”
(you know, because, in case some other girl might be shy, not me.)
Seagal says that yes, he was shy, and that he still is, and likes to spend time alone in the corner by himself, and people think it’s arrogance but he’s actually shy just like the little girl.
“Helping children” is a pretty obvious way to look nice, but I honestly think Seagal is sincere about this stuff. The one thing better than being pulled over and racially profiled by a movie star is having him visit your dojo and tell you he’s shy. I mean, that must be awesome for those kids. He tells the camera that while rebuilding the infrastructure is important, to him it’s even more important to “help the children.” Because they need role models, people who will say, “I’m not gonna disappear. I’m gonna be there for you. I’m always gonna be there for you.”
(no word yet on if LAWMAN has been renewed for a second season.)
Episode 12: Narc Force
This episode begins with Seagal visiting his “SWAT buddies” to do a “dry rehearsal” of running up on a car behind a shield and pulling a dude out and cuffing him. As we all know, there are about 250 things that Seagal has been doing for twenty years, and this time he mentions helping to train people in SWAT, sniping, and weapons retention. It seems more likely to me that he learned this stuff from them for a movie he was working on, but it seems to indicate that he teaches it to them. I’m not sure. Anyway, he’s going around pointing his finger because they don’t give him a gun.
They’re rehearsing for a rehearsal – they’re going to do this same exercise for an audience at an annual event called “Day In the Park” where they show off police shit for the citizens.
But now for the real deal, the work of the Narc Force. Seagal and a whole bunch of other cops are briefed on a narcotics bust they’re all going to take part in.
The good news: Like last week they’re going after a specific criminal, not just scaring off people with traffic warrants who hang out in front of liquor stores. They’ve had an undercover buyer make multiple buys, they have the whole place staked out with multiple unmarked vehicles in the area, it’s gonna be huge.
The bad news: the suspect is a skinny young kid with a pregnant wife who only sells weed.
As they’re driving toward the bust the officers keep referring to the suspect as the “bad guy.” Seagal has to get everybody hyped to take down this “bad guy” so he boasts about what he has to bring to the table, and that “they just don’t want any of it.” He says “this guy ain’t outrunnin’ me.” But he also emphasizes the dangers of the unknown. I mean, obviously going to somebody’s house to make a bust is gonna get some butterflies in every cop’s stomach, unless they’re crazy. But Seagal is talking about how they don’t know if the guy is dangerous, they don’t know if he’s an addict. But I submit that they fucking do. The undercover officer knows this guy. And we get to see the undercover officer. There is no way this officer is scared of this weed dealer. And if he’s getting high off his own supply that only means he’ll be easier to handle. If he gets out of line just promise him a bag of Cheetos.
So I don’t know, maybe they heard the criticisms about all the harassment of innocent black people on the show and thought they should specifically target a criminal that Seagal would be able to call “that white boy.” But I couldn’t be too happy about this one either. This is the best unintentional anti drug war PSA they could make. By all means, go after the crack dealers and shit. But when you see this poor kid you have a hard time believing it’s gonna help the world at all to lock him up. He’s so polite, he doesn’t have to be talked into letting them search his house but he begs “Please don’t rip it up.” I felt so sorry for him I almost didn’t laugh when he called Seagal “Mr. Stallone.”
All Seagal can tell him is “Stop worryin’.” But I don’t know man. His wife is pregnant. I’d worry. I suspect the drug laws aren’t gonna change the essence of a man in the right direction.
In the next patrol scene they continue to talk about “bad guys” and “bad folks,” but fan favorite Sgt. Lawrence Matthews comes up with better terminology when he says they’re driving around looking for “these knuckleheads.” It’s yet another “suspicious activity stop” where they drive up to some dude, the dude runs away, and they never catch him. There is actual a shakycam shot of him running away, like in a Bourne movie. A woman says he went into her house, so they go in and check under the beds and even in the attic. Alex shouts, “If you’re in that closet you’re about to have a miserable day!” to an empty pantry.
Eventually they talk to a neighbor who says he saw the dude run off a long time ago. “I was weedeating,” he explains. Well, that’s the end of that case. But they say they’ll recognize him when they see him again. I won’t – they never even got a shot of the knucklehead’s face.
Next there’s another traffic stop of some black dudes in an allegedly suspicious truck. I’m not clear what somebody thought they were doing, but for these two the excitement of seeing Steven Seagal seems to outweigh the frustration and humiliation of being pulled over for no reason. So score one for community outreach. Seagal won’t give them an autograph today but invites them to Day In the Park.
The episode ends with the Day In the Park event, which not surprisingly attracts the largest concentration of white people we’ve seen on the show (enough for a small company picnic). Seagal explains that this is their way to “Shake hands with the public and promote our friendship with the community.” They do this by having Seagal and some other guys wearing fatigues fly in in a helicopter, get out and pull an officer portraying a bad guy or folk out of a car. “Good extraction,” Seagal notes afterwards. He hopes demonstrations of force like this will “make a relationship with the kids,” so they won’t grow up into these knuckleheads.
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.