When the first season of LAWMAN wrapped up I must’ve been busy with something real important, like the birth of a child or the construction of a bridge. I don’t remember anything like that going on, but it had to’ve been something big to prevent me from writing a review of the season finale.
After some legal delays and what not the show resumed last Wednesday with 2 new episodes, and 2 more tomorrow, so I figured I better play catch up. I dug up the extensive notes I wrote for that last first season episode, watched it again on DVD, and now I will present to you my findings.
Season 1, Episode 13: “Ruthless Judgment”
Seagal explains to his partners and to the cameras that this is his last shift before having to go back to L.A. to film a movie. Luckily this is a reality TV show and not a movie, so this is not foreshadowing that he’s about to get shot, it’s just the sentimental consequences of working two jobs in different parts of the country. He seems kind of sad that he’s leaving soon, and so do his partners. “I’m gonna miss you, Big Dog.” It’s like summer camp is almost over.
But it’s kind of a shitty summer camp. The Seagal Squad reports to a scene where a young man has been killed in a drive-by shooting. They examine the evidence – Seagal points to bullet casings and blood drops with his flashlight and explains his theory of what happened. But this isn’t their job, they’re really just there to seal the scene so no evidence will get ruined, and waiting for the homicide detectives to show up. Meanwhile the victim’s loved ones are screaming in anguish. It’s gotta be tough to be a cop in that situation, but you really must feel like an asshole if you’re a movie star doing a TV show. I felt uncomfortable for him.
Then they get called away for another shooting nearby. Two homicides in twenty minutes. “It’s gonna be a busy night,” Fortunato says.
Later on Seagal and Fortunato do some public relations work by talking to the camera about their law enforcement philosophy while driving around. They explain that the homicide rate since Katrina is at its highest in 27 years, and although some people might consider their approach “too aggressive” they feel it’s what they need to do to keep the neighborhoods safe.
Then we get a pretty typical example of their “too aggressive” style: they’re driving along and see some dudes run away so they chase after them. They have to pull their guns and get them out of an abandoned building before they search them and find out they have no warrants. It’s the classic “Y’all scared the shit out of me” excuse, to which Larry says, “What we look like, we ugly?”
After they’ve decided to let the kids go we get another one of those star-struck exchanges:
“Ah man, you know who this dude is? Man, that’s Steven Seagal! Why don’t you break my neck or something?”
“I’m not gonna hurt you.”
As Seagal signs autographs for the kids he tells them about the two dead bodies they just saw and how important it is to not become a third one. “I just want y’all to be smart and lead a good life, and don’t get your ass shot. Stay away from all the guns and the drugs up in here, you hear me? Everybody gonna be good?” He makes them promise.
In the day light, at “Steven Seagal’s Residence,” Seagal meets with producers Phil Goldfine and Binh Danh about the movie they’re about to shoot, A DANGEROUS MAN. They say it’s the opening action scene, but from what I can tell it’s the third action scene, one that ended up being about 15 minutes in when he sees some gangsters kill a cop in a parking lot.
Seagal sketches out a map of the scene and blocks out the moves with Danh (one of his aikido students and stuntmen before he became a producer). It’s funny to see them practicing in the middle of his living room. They don’t even move the furniture out of the way. I can’t tell if this is just staged for the cameras or if this is how they really prepare. But throughout the episode Seagal keeps saying he has to go back to L.A., and I’m pretty sure A DANGEROUS MAN was shot in Canada. So that might be one hint that they’re sort of putting on a show here.
Even as he works on the movie he seems to wish he could just stay in New Orleans. He says he enjoys making movies to “bring people joy and laughter and happiness” (mission accomplished) but that he prefers his police work, because it’s “real.”
That night he’s on his “one last shift” again (I’m beginning to suspect some of this stuff is edited out of order for dramatic purposes, but I’m probly just being paranoid). Like in his movies Chief Seagal likes to vary his wardrobe, so this time he has a big fur hat with a badge on it.
As they drive past some kids Seagal asks to look at them, and scopes them out with Seagal Sense, at which point his super powers of observation slo-mo zero in on a baggie dropping out of one of their pockets. So they stop the kids, and I think more out of suspicion than trying to be helpful and tell them they dropped something.
Well ain’t that a bitch? Not only did these kids try to ditch a bunch of pill bottles, some baggies of marijuana and more than 60 crack rocks, but these are the same kids that Seagal signed autographs for last night and got them to promise to be good! Come on kids, this is not being good. And don’t give me that “I didn’t know selling crack didn’t count as good” shit. Chief Seagal specified staying away from drugs. You knew what you were agreeing to.
Seagal is obviously disappointed, and can’t really relate. “When I was their age,” he says, “I was in Asia studying in a dojo, spending 13, 14 hours a day fighting and stretching and learning, and this… never entered my life, this kind of foolishness.”
That’s why I have to question him preferring the reality of police work to the fantasy of action movies. In the real one he just saw two young kids killed before they had a chance to do anything good with their lives, and these other even younger looking kids lying to him about being good. One of them gets 4 1/2 years, the text later tells us. Why doesn’t he prefer the fantasy world where the bad guys are undeniably bad, not just kids with poor judgment, and he just gets to kill them and make the world better? I would think the “real” job would bum him out and the other one would be more fun.
But it is nice to see Seagal trying to make a connection with these guys, and I think he genuinely hopes to inspire them. “I don’t want to lose hope or lose faith, because it’s possible for anybody to change. Y’know I hope this is a wake up call for them.” What does it take to change the essence of a young man?
In the end Seagal says goodbye to his partners, and they reminisce over a montage of season 1 fun times. “So I gotta go away to make a movie for a little bit. My heart is really here, this is what I love most.” (I believe him, because A DANGEROUS MAN didn’t turn out very good.)
“I’ll really be looking forward to coming back and getting more bad guys,” Seagal says. Well, we’ll leave it to homicide to find those drive by shooters, But if Seagal doesn’t get more bad guys I’m sure he’ll at least interrupt some more foolishness.
P.S. On the new episode of LAWMAN they advertised a pretty hilarious Chief Seagal bobblehead available at www.shopaetv.com. I went to look at it and was surprised that my book is available in the A&E network’s online store. Well, okay, it was on backorder when I saw it there, but at least it’s listed. That means that I have officially contributed to both Arts and Entertainment.
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.