Next week, if all goes as planned, I will be doing an in-depth analytical study that will completely reinvent film criticism forever as well as change the definition of what it means to be an American, a human, or a spiritual being. In my opinion. Obviously I’m toning that down a little so that your expectations are not too high, but it should be pretty good.
In the near future I also hope to review BORN TO RAISE HELL, the new Seagal movie that’s available in Region 2. But before I do either of those things I think it’s important to fulfill previous obligations, so I will be reviewing the last four episodes of season 2 (and the series?) of STEVEN SEAGAL: LAWMAN. At the end of those I will introduce a new still-evolving theory about the current state of Seagalogy.Episode 2.5: “Gimme Shelter”
Despite the title the Rolling Stones do not appear on this episode, so don’t get your hopes up.
This episode’s first incident seems to be there just to show-off the high tech capabilities of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Department. It takes place in a “problematic area,” so problematic in fact that a police helicopter is on patrol there, to provide an eye in the sky and a first line of defense against air pirates or hot air balloon attacks. The Squad are called in to stop a white Mustang with stolen plates and a sticker that says “Whodat?”. A photo of the vehicle is sent to their Blackberries. On second thought, it might be product placement.
After stopping the vehicle and arguing with the driver and passenger it turns out to be a damn clerical error – the vehicle had been carjacked six months ago, but it was recovered on the same night, and never cleared out of the police database. It is not clear if it was the owner or carjacker who put the sticker on, which has something to do with the New Orleans Saints. Anyway, the driver and passenger are innocent of license plate theft, but still have to be taken in on “outstanding attachments,” which is not as much of a compliment as it sounds like.
Next they go after a driver who actually is guilty of three hit and runs in a row. Nothing too exciting happens except that Lawrence refers to the truck as a “she” and Seagal wears a leather trenchcoat with a backwards baseball cap.
The third traffic stop is more Seagalogically notable. Seagal and friends get really upset when they see a guy driving a pickup truck with a big rottweiler chained up in the back. They’re worried the dog could fall or jump out and get strangled. The driver seems pretty shocked to be surrounded by a bunch of really emotional cops, the most emotional of course being Seagal, saying “I don’t like the way you got that dog tied like that” and “I don’t like the way you got this, that’s not right. I’m a dog man, I got alot of dogs” and “Put your dog inside the thing, man.”
The driver seems really shocked and confused, I think maybe they’re treating his dog like more of a baby than necessary. But once he realizes they’re serious he complies and apologizes. Seagal explains to the cameras, “We’re out here to try to protect everybody, even dogs.”
I felt a little sorry for the guy, because he obviously didn’t mean to harm the dog and seemed kind of hurt to be treated like an animal abuser, something he clearly doesn’t see himself as. But if he’s seen OUT FOR JUSTICE he knows he’s lucky. In that movie Seagal witnessed a fictional vehicle-related instance of dog abuse and at the end of the movie he saw the guy again, recognized him and kicked him in the balls. From the back, too, one of the rarest forms of ball kicking.
Anyway, the incident “really got” Seagal, inspiring him to take his wife to the “Humane Way” animal shelter, where 2 out of 3 dogs have to be put down. His wife cries and is embarrassed about it but Seagal tells her, “That’s what happens when you have a heart.”
Back on the beat, the Squad report to a break-in where a unit is already on the scene. A guy in a tank top is handcuffed outside his mother’s house, because “his mama put him out.” But she never did any paperwork to officially evict him (why would she?) and now he’s trying to get back in by throwing a coconut through the window. So there’s nothing really to do here except enjoy the absurdity of the situation. As Larry explains it, “He wasn’t formally evicted, so it’s still his residence. But he did throw a coconut through the back winda, turns out it’s his winda, and his coconut.”
Honestly I would like to see at least one Seagal cop movie that works this type of random oddness into the script, to really capture the surreal quality of police work that you don’t get in a standard action movie. And if his colleagues here aren’t in the movie they should at least be consultants.
At the end of the episode Seagal makes good on his promise to help the animal shelter by making an appearance at an “Adoption Event” and encouraging the people who show up to adopt some of these dogs so they don’t get put down. It’s funny, I went to that Thunderbox show, I know how dedicated some of his fans are, and I can honestly imagine a whole bunch of those people from that show adopting dogs just because Seagal encouraged them to. But I’m not sure how I feel about some of them owning pitbulls. It’s nice of him though.
Some of the people seem to be joking around with Seagal, saying things like “With your blessing we’d gladly adopt.” I don’t think they’re big Seagal fans or anything but I’m sure they understand that it’s pretty cool to have Seagal’s blessing for their dog ownership. That’s better than papers.
In the tradition of Seagal’s DTV era this scene has some obviously redubbed lines. But at least it’s his real voice.
At the end he concludes, “It was my honor to help the animals in this Parish.” (Yeah, tell that to the nutria.)
* * *
Episode 2.6: “On Dangerous Ground”
Wait a minute, that title is just a synonym for a Seagal movie title. That’s kind of lazy. They didn’t do “Difficult to Kill” or “Labelled For Death” or “This Day You Die.” And this one doesn’t take place in Alaska or deal with corrupt oil companies or anything cool like that. Oh well.
The episode begins with the Seagal Squad meeting with the narcotics team, who have a warrant for a crack dealer. During this scene there’s a shot of an officer playing with his wedding ring, which of course in an actual action movie would mean that he’s doing this to avenge the death of his wife (see HALF PAST DEAD), or it would be foreshadowing to show he’s gonna die in the raid and it’s tragic because he has a wife at home (TOP GUN). But on this show it has no specific narrative meaning, it’s just a moment. Don’t worry. Nobody dies. (SPOILER)
They decide that “Chief Seagal’s gonna be third,” and sure enough there’s Steven Seagal (that’s right, Steven Seagal, deputy sheriff) helping raid a guy’s house. They think the guy is trying to swallow his stash so they pepper spray him, and later they sit around with a pitcher of water helping wash it out of his eyes, like they’re his buddies.
I liked this skeptical exchange:
“I’ve been changing my life around, officer.”
Well, Seagal Sense says otherwise, when it detects drugs hidden in an oven mitt. It’s also not lost on Seagal that there are Batman dolls and shit laying around the house. He’s really offended that kids live in the same place where drugs are stored.
Seagal cares because he’s got kids of his own. Not necessarily with Batman dolls, but still. We visit “Steven’s House,” his wife Elle and son Kunzang, who Seagal calls “the light of my life.” Also he has a dog that it sounds like he’s calling “Midian.” Wonder if he’s a NIGHTBREED fan? Kunzang is only a baby but already wears shirts with dragons embroidered on the back. Seagal met his wife in Mongolia about 8 years ago when he was trying to find funding for that movie where he was gonna play Genghis Khan. They met because she was an interpreter for “a famous costume designer” and thought he was “very powerful and strong.”
Elle worries about her husband when he leaves. It reminds me of that documentary Eric Bana made, LOVE THE BEAST, where he wonders if it’s selfish for him to take part in dangerous car races when he has a family at home. This is kind of the same thing, because Seagal obviously has plenty of money from his movies and everything, and no matter what you think about his level of actual police work it’s gotta be more dangerous out there than is necessary in his life.
But anyway there’s a nice scene of him getting ready for work and she’s preparing fruit and protein bars for him and hugging him, like a kid going to school. “I just want him to catch bad guys and come home safe,” she says.
I try not to write about Seagal’s personal life, but I think at this point it’s time to address the issue of the (later dropped) lawsuit that interrupted this season. In April a former assistant of Seagal’s filed a million-plus-dollar lawsuit accusing Seagal of wrongful termination and sexual harassment. Oh, and, uh, keeping two Russian sex slaves in his house. Although no criminal charges were ever filed the Sheriff’s Department didn’t want to look like they were unethically protecting him from his accusers, so they asked A&E to stop filming the show. That’s why the first season had 14 episodes and this one only had 8.
I bring this up now because I couldn’t help but notice that Elle Seagal was never shown or mentioned in Season 1, but is central to multiple episodes of Season 2, portraying him more as a family man. I don’t think they shot any additional episodes after the filming was suspended, but I don’t know that for sure. So it’s legitimate to ask if this is a PR move to help rehabilitate Seagal’s image in the face of what I think were clearly ridiculous claims but that grabbed alot of headlines.
Well, in my opinion it’s most likely a coincidence. Even if more footage was shot after the lawsuit some of these Elle episodes had to have been filmed before. For example this one ends up revolving around Valentine’s Day and another around the Mardi Gras parade. So unless someone has evidence that these episodes were staged out of season I think it just so happens that Seagal was shooting more family-centric episodes at the time he was accused of sex trafficking.
Also, you can go back and look through the tapes but as far as I noticed there were no signs of Russian sex slaves in the house, or any nationality of sex slaves for that matter. The house appears 100% sex slave free.
Back on the beat there’s an incident involving suspicious persons with a gun in a car. They run into what might be a “heroin den” and there’s one of those POINT BREAK footchases through yards. Amazingly the camera catches the dude jumping out a window (ground level), but the guy manages to get away, and Larry falls and rolls. Not a somersault or anything, but pretty good. Unfortunately “We didn’t get the bad guys this time” and that’s just “the crazy nature of this job.” You know, sometimes the guy gets away, sometimes the guy legitimately owns the coconut, you never know what’s gonna happen.
Seagal wants to “get lucky” on Valentine’s Day, so he goes to a flower shop and buys a ridiculous amount of flowers for Elle. The older gals who work there are really excited about the whole thing. They all take a group photo with Chief Seagal and one of them says, “You made our day.” I don’t think they mean by supporting a local independent flower shop, although that helps, and I don’t think they’re confusing him with Clint Eastwood, I think they really had a good day in the presence of Seagal. If you ever buy flowers in Jefferson Parish look for that photo on the wall.
On patrol the Squad pulls over a speeding Monte Carlo. They see the driver reaching for something, he claims he was “reachin for my food.” That would be a stupid move. Anyway Seagal Sense locates a bag of weed hidden in a shoe. “It’s a shame, man, a damn shame,” Seagal says, although he’s seen worse.
But hey, he did what he was supposed to do, he came home from the dangerous ground, returned to the safe ground alive and watched his wife be happy about all the flowers that got delivered to her. “We raised our hand and took an oath,” he says, “and hope and pray every day that we all get to come home at night.” (Or day, in this case, but maybe he got off early for the holiday.)
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.