So once again we have survived.

A Good Man

tn_agoodmanex3-seagal“The rate this is going we’re going to run out of Russians soon.”

A GOOD MAN – not to be confused with A DANGEROUS MAN, A SERIOUS MAN, A SINGLE MAN, A SOLITARY MAN, HE WAS A QUIET MAN, etc. – is the latest Steven Seagal picture, continuing what at first glance looks like Seagal’s Goatee Period (SGP). The new facial hair seems to represent the evil Seagal from another dimension, or at least a slightly darker Seagal. In the opening narration he explains that he has both light and darkness in him. Later he calls himself “a regular man who does bad things to bad people.”

He doesn’t seem like as much of an anti-hero as the Russian gangster he played in his last movie, FORCE OF EXECUTION, but he is a guy who goes around literally chopping up gangsters and leaving them strewn across alleys. Technically that’s not that different from what he does in other movies, but it’s presented differently. The first pile we don’t see as an action scene, we see it as a crime scene investigated by detectives. And he leaves a calling card – incense in their hands, the Chinese characters for “Gwai-Lo” – like a serial killer.

But on closer examination, this gangster-slayer actually is an alternate reality version of the guy from the last movie. On a behind the scenes featurette writer/director Keoni Waxman says they originally started writing it as a sequel to “our last movie,” which would explain the returning beard and that both characters are named Alexander.

mp_agoodmanThis Alexander has a different backstory though. The movie begins 2 years ago when he’s on a special ops mission to assassinate a terrorist and an arms dealer in “Bordering Dagestan.” And, not to be racist, but… fucking Dagestanis, am I right?

This seems like Seagal’s first movie influenced by the SEAL Team 6 raid on Osama bin Laden, but I have to confess that at his age and size (plus bulked up with kevlar) lumbering up to a house to shoot people doesn’t seem like a precision assault. And even though it’s a funny joke he’s probly giving his critics too much ammunition by asking about local restaurants in his first line of dialogue. Luckily, this limp poor man’s ZERO DARK THIRTY turns to gold when Alexander pulls out a little sword and slices a dude up. Just like the real special ops guys do.

Here Seagal deals with some modern elements that he hasn’t used much in his movies: Islamic fundamentalists, human shields, digital blood spatters, drones. Once again he’s ahead of the curve in political themes as his character is outraged by a drone strike that kills civilians. He warns them at least three times not to attack and they still do it. The guys who are off somewhere else are removed from the situation, they don’t have the same humanity as the boots on the ground.

This prologue also has a bunch of stock footage of Blackhawk or similar helicopters. I’ve long enjoyed the inclusion of helicopters on Seagal DVD covers even when they’re not in the movie, this one seems to pay homage to those covers by randomly dissolving between Seagal and a bunch of helicopters. It’s the most helicoptery shot in any of his movies so far.

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But most of the movie takes place in the present day when Alexander is living in “Eastern Europe,” and I thought he was being cute when he first called himself a “handyman,” but later it sounds like that’s supposed to be his cover job. I don’t know, he’s never shown going to work or wearing work clothes or doing anything handyman-like other than in one scene when he helps his sexy neighbor Lena (Iulia Verdes) and her young sister Mya (Sofia Nicolaescu) break into the apartment they’re locked out of.

Alexander is haunted by the little Dagestani girl he failed to save and this inspires him to protect Mya from the gangsters her family owes money to. He befriends her because she likes his dog. His relationship with her might count as a badass juxtaposition, but his dog doesn’t. He hasn’t bothered to name the dog and at the end gives him away saying “I’m gonna give you this dog. It’s a good dope dog, tha’s why I got him,” as if that’s relevant to any dog owner’s needs. That right there is Chief Seagal’s LAWMAN experience expressing itself to the world.

Of course he’s got his other eccentricities in here, especially the shifting accent. Early on it almost seems like he’s trying to do a scene as Robert Downey Jr.’s blackface character from TROPIC THUNDER, but mostly he just talks like regular Seagal. He has plenty of lines that you gotta assume he made up, like when he accuses a guy of having less than “the IQ of a mature caterpillar.”

There’s a scene where he goes into a Christian church, like in the old days, but he doesn’t confess or anything. He tells the father he’s “Just lookin around.”

Then we’re introduced to Sasha (Victor Webster), a well-dressed protection money collector who surprised me by being immediately captivating. You don’t expect to find any acting revelations in the no-name supporting cast of a later Seagal movie. This guy seems like a little Jon Hamm or Jim Caviezel, a little American Psycho. After his henchman beats a guy down, holds a knife to his fingers and makes him beg, Sasha asks how short he is, pulls money out of his own pocket and and helps him pay up. “Do not mistake this act of kindness for weakness,” he says, and I thought “Oh shit, what is this guy gonna do?” That’s a crazy waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop way to mess with a guy’s head. Seems like this will be one of the better DTV villains.

still_agoodman4

But actually he’s not a villain, he’s Lena and Mya’s half brother, only doing this job to fulfill his father’s debt and protect the girls. So he’s not crazy, he seriously did that out of kindness. Weird. He’ll not only end up on the same side as Alexander, he’ll even take over and do the action scenes for a big chunk of the movie, much like Bren Foster in FORCE OF EXECUTION, the surprisingly good co-star-you-never-heard-of here to do the athletic moves that Seagal can’t or won’t. He fights with a chain, a pole, a pay phone. He suplexes a guy onto a windshield. But to show he’s not indestructible like Seagal is he gets stressed by it all. He swears and spits after he wins a fight.

Webster holds his own. Doesn’t seem like a martial artist like Foster, but he has more screen presence. I had to pause and look up who he was. A ha, he played the Scorpion King in part 3 and upcoming part 4. I didn’t recognize him with clothes and no beard. I like him better here.

Seagal does his usual Spirit of the Man Bear fighting style, kinda quickly edited scenes of him dominating and pummeling with a couple punches, kicks or wrist twists. He’s much more exciting when he uses his sword, which he reveals is named “The Devil’s Butcher Knife.” He uses it in a lengthy fight with a cool-looking but undeveloped, scarfaced henchman, and also in a formal duel with lead villain Mr. Chen (Tzi Ma, who also played a character named Chen on True Justice).

In case in the future I don’t have too many good memories of this one I have made myself the following two screen grabs.

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Seagal seems way more impressive and believable in the sword fights than the other action, but maybe that’s just because they’re able to hold the shots longer.

Here’s an odd touch: in 3 or 4 parts Waxman emphasizes dialogue by having it also appear in onscreen text. Here’s the most notable one, the part where he reveals himself to the villain:

still_agoodman5

I thought you were a handyman? Yeah, well… I’m also handy.

At times this reminds me of certain early Seagal DTV movies, which is a good thing. The swordsman-protecting-a-little-girl bit is reminiscent of OUT OF REACH. Both the secret alter ego and the formal language when he talks to Mr. Chen remind me of OUT FOR A KILL. He gets Mr. Chen to say things like “It took an adversary to show me the significance of life and death.”

But in other ways it’s just another dreary and somewhat rhythmless filmed-in-Bucharest DTV joint. So I’d really only recommend it to those of us fascinated by the continuing evolution of Seagal. It’s probly a little closer to feeling like a real movie than FORCE OF EXECUTION, but it’s not as interestingly weird. Ladies and gentlemen, the state of Seagalogy is okay, not great. I wish we could at least count on his new ones having the pulpy appeal of a pretty good Luc Besson production. I guess he’s getting there.

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 Monday, September 15th, 2014 at 12:17 pm and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews, Seagal. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

35 Responses to “A Good Man”

  1. I need to check this one out I am always down for some new Seagal. But, I don’t know about his goatee. If I had not seen him with it in real life I would swear it is fake.

    In other Seagal news I read that former UFC champ Anderson Silva who has trained with Seagal a number of times in the past is consulting a specialist to help him recover mentally in an attempt to return to the octagon after a suffering a brutal broken leg during his last match. I so want Seagal to be the specialist he is consulting. Supposedly Seagal has used ancient Chinese medical techniques on Silva in the past to help prepare him for a fight and Silva does see him as some form of mentor. I love the idea of Seagal imparting sage like advise to Silva. Seagal could recommend some of his films to watch as homework or a prescription if you will. “Silva, if at any point you start to questioning your ability to return to combat just watch OUT FOR JUSTICE & MARKED FOR DEATH then call me in the morning.”

  2. Expendables 3 – you’re a funny guy Vern.

  3. PREVIOUSLY ON “PAUL WATCHES SEAGAL”:

    – Paul manages to find / buy a secondhand box-set of DVDs of all of Seagal’s early work, up to and including “Against the Dark”.

    – After surprisingly not hating that last one as much as he expected to, Paul decides to start with the absolute worst of classic and DTV-era Seagal, and work his way through the lot of them, finally ending up at what are generally considered his best – “Pistol Whipped” and “Out for Justice”.

    – This decision ends up costing Paul his resolve, what remains of his sanity, and several items of luxury bedding. (Yeah, if you tried to sit through “Kill Switch” in one sitting, you’d not be able to resist the urge to rip something close-at-hand to shreds either.)

    – After an infamously bad double-billing of “Submerged” and “Kill Switch”, Paul’s will breaks. His DVD box-set is relegated to the back of a convenient shelf that’s normally only used for bad horror movies he hasn’t bothered to return to Oxfam yet, including the likes of “Cutting Class” (Brad Pitt’s least famous role), “Venom” (apparently it’s from the talent that brought you “Scream”), and “I’ll Always Know what you did Last Summer” (don’t ask. Just don’t.) Now set behind these examples of butchery of the language of both cinema and horror, the box-set waits in the dark, unseen by any eyes, waiting for the day when it will return so that, once again, its contents can be opened and viewed with bright, anticipating eyes. That day has not yet come.

    But wait! There is a twist to this tale! Purely by chance, Paul catches glimpse of something in his TV guide – a showing of another Seagal DTV picture, “Mercenary for Justice”! This re-ignites the fire in Paul’s belly. He immediately sets his TiVo to “Record” mode. Later, he settles down to watch this new cinematic discovery. In the process, he discovers two things about “Mercenary for Justice”:
    1) This film cannot go five minutes without showing us something that’s truly bizarre and awesome.
    2) Despite (1), it’s unwatchable for more than ten minutes at a time. It seems that a string of bizarre but ultimately meaningless moments do not create a watchable movie experience.

    (Also the comms specialist is called “Radio Jones”. Holy crap, I come from Britain, where the roofers are called “Thatcher”, the boat-builders are called “Carpenter”, the ale-makers are called “Brewer”, and the politicians are called “Scumbag sellout amoral son-of-a-whore”. And even I think that “Radio” is too on-the-nose.)

    So where does this leave “A Good Man”?

    …I don’t have a clue. Possibly I’ll see it if it comes on TV.

    But I enjoyed the review. A lot more than I suspect I would enjoy the actual film. So thanks for that.

    Paul – out.

  4. I have to wonder how many Russians will remain to finance and watch these films at the rate the fat man kills them. He needs to wound more.

    Side question: do they have on-set wig wranglers?

  5. Victor Webster is a pretty cool actor. He kicks all kinds of ass on CONTINUUM. You might dig that show, Vern. All of the action scenes are fucking killer.

  6. Paul, I am a big fan of PISTOL WHIPPED for late period Seagal, but it is absolutely not “generally considered the best” along with OUT FOR JUSTICE. Normally I wouldn’t correct you on something like that, but I feel a responsibility with Seagalogical topics. “Generally considered the best” would be all the movies from ABOVE THE LAW to UNDER SIEGE.

  7. The scene where Victor Webster takes on that henchmen in a Knife, staff and hand to hand fight is aces. I actually prefer Victor Webster over Bren Foster to tell the truth.

    Anyone here saw MUTANT X? Webster is one of the leads there as well.

  8. Vern – the thing is, I think I’ve watched all but one or two of the “golden age” of Seagal, and most of the “Silver Age” as well. So I’m left with a couple of his best period and a whole bunch of DTV.

    Bringing out my copy of Seagalogy (of course), here’s what I’ve actually seen: “Hard to Kill”, “Marked for Death”, “Under Siege”, “Under Siege 2″**, “On Deadly Ground”, “Executive Decision”, “The Glimmer Man”, “Fire Down Below”, “The Patriot”, “Exit Wounds”***, “Submerged”, “Mercenary for Justice” (well… parts of it… I wasn’t joking about the “unwatchable” thing), “Kill Switch”, and “Against the Dark”.

    So the only golden-age Seagal I haven’t seen yet would be “Above the Law” and Out for Justice”, and the only silver-age Seagal I’m missing is “Ticker” and “Half-Past Dead”. So when I’m referring to “the best”, I really mean “the best apart from all of those ones above that I already watched”.

    **Fun fact #1: I first saw “Under Siege 2” in the company of several slightly inebriated college students. Which might be the best (if not maybe the most respectful) way to watch a Seagal film, because you can play “Spot the phallic symbol”. FTR “Under Siege 2” is a really, really good movie to play this game with. All went well until some bloke yelled out “Big black choppers!” at which point everyone accused him of being weird, and a little racist, and he left in shame. True story. Almost. (Ok, the bit about the phallic symbol game is true.)

    ***Fun fact #2: “Exit Wounds” is the only Seagal I’ve actually seen in the cinema. I think it was one of the last ones to be actually released widely in cinemas over here. It didn’t do too well, which is a pity, because it’s always been one of the ones I can enjoy re-watching and I still think it stands up pretty well with Seagal’s best.

    Oh, and fun fact #3: I can’t remember which was my first Seagal, but I think it might’ve been “Fire Down Below”, which I’m pretty certain I saw when it first appeared on TV. The others I didn’t watch until much later after they’d come out. Of course I was only eighteen years old then, and very naive about these things.

  9. Actually I’ve done the “fun facts” thing before, haven’t I? Oh well. Everyone get back to discussing “A Good Man”. Just out of interest, has anybody bar Vern actually seen it yet?

  10. Goddamn it I got it wrong again… I forgot there was a “transitional period”. So I’ve seen ALL of the “Silver Age” and am missing two “transitionals”.

  11. I’ve seen it.

  12. Damn, Seagal looks a lot like Bud Spencer in that last screencap! (Which I swear isn’t meant to knock his weight, because as we all know, Bud might have been overweight for pretty much all his acting life, but that didn’t make him less cool!)

  13. JD, I read somewhere that Bud wants to do another movie with Terence Hill. Maybe Seagal could play his son?

  14. Felix – thanks. Was it worth it?

  15. It’s about on par with FORCE OF EXECUTION.

    Seagal has a creepy sex scene at the end.

  16. Creepy sex scene? Well that settles it, I’m there!

  17. Noticed that TRUE JUSTICE a.k.a C.S.I CHIEF SEAGAL INVESTIGATION is available to stream over here in the correct chronological order. I might actually FINALLY make sense of in what order to watch the episodes as they no longer are slapped together randomly in poorly titled dvd´s and instead neatly put in chronological order.

  18. If I’ve learned one thing about your reviews of lower-tier Seagal joints: it’s best to enjoy the review and then skip the movie altogether. Saves time and money.

    I believe the face fuzz is meant, perhaps unintentionally, to usher in Seagal’s “Fat Elvis Phase”, in which he’s a parody of his former self but his fans still linger with the delusional hope that he’ll recapture his former muted coolness [OK, good luck with that].

  19. Are those helicopters-against-sunset stock footage shots from that bizarre Nicolas Cage sort-of TOP GUN knock-off FIRE BIRDS (also starring Tommy Lee Jones)?

    They look pretty similar. If so, it’s a strange coincidence.

  20. If this is FORCE OF EXECUTION level, I’m in. FOE was full of fun performances and wacky stuff. Not at all like most of these crappy Keoni Waxman ones usually go. Of course, it helped a lot to have Trejo and Rhames in there, I’m more dubious without them.

    For my money, DRIVEN TO KILL is the most underrated “Chief Seagal” period film. It’s the closest he’s come to making a real movie in a while, with a fair simple, straightforward plot, some decent action, and reasonably competent production. Plus it has really the only memorable villain he’s faced in fucking forever, Igor Jijikine (the weird looking Russian dude from KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL). I guess Michael Pare is OK in MAXIMUM CONVICTION, but that whole effort is pretty shoddy. DRIVEN TO KILL (aka RUSLAN) is where the smart money is. In fact, I venture to say had it not been for the unfortunate inclusion of AGAINST THE DARK and KILL SWITCH in between them, it sits nicely with PISTOL WHIPPED and URBAN JUSTICE as part of a trilogy of more competent DTV efforts.

  21. Victor Webster also played a Cupid on CHARMED.

    Yeah.

    He is good on CONTINUUM though.

    Is the opening quotation possibly a meta commentary on the overused of Russians as villains in action movies? Also, the comment about this being an alternate reality version of the guy from his last thing got m wondering, Vern…how would you feel if people started remaking Seagal movies with different actors? For? Against? Have your own ideas about who could fill the shoes?

  22. Seagal’s extra weight might prevent him from showcasing some of his Akido movies, but I think it makes him look a little more intimidating (which is only heightened by his goatee, of course). I for one enjoyed Force of Execution. It was a solid latter day Seagal film, and I thought Seagal performed admirably as the noble criminal. (Some of his ad-libbing was bizarre but engaging).

    I like to think that in some alternate reality, “A Good Man” is an DTV adaptation of the Flannery O’Connor short story, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” starring Stephen Seagal as The Misfit. For whatever reason, as I read the review I kept on trying to imagine what that would look like.

  23. What would be the point? There’s nothing about 95% of his movies that stand out except the fact that Seagal is in them. He’s the whole show. They’re star vehicles, nothing more. They don’t even have name recognition because all the titles are generic and sound pretty much identical. The only one that has enough cultural penetration and enough of a replicable hook to be remade is UNDER SIEGE, which is his most mainstream and least Seagalogical film. Seagal’s presence elevates the film but it doesn’t define it. At heart, it’s just a slick DIE HARD ripoff, so I can see it being redone with, like, Kellan Lutz and a bunch of shakycam. Why not?

  24. Isn’t An Inconvenient Truth already a (much inferior) remake of the last five minutes of On Deadly Ground?

  25. RBatty – I just love the thought that came into my head after your comment that that was what Al Gore was aiming to do – remake a Seagal movie.

  26. I actually think the only Seagal film that could be remade is ON DEADLY GROUND. I know it may be the most Seagalian picture in his filmography and it was a passion project for him, but you can jettison the more traditional themes and touches of Seagalogly from the story and the tale of former oil company merc going rouge and becoming an eco terrorist is prime for a serious and subversive remake. All you need to do is move the films location from Alaska to Africa.

  27. Paul — I’m sure I got the Al Gore/On Deadly Ground connection from someone else (probably Vern). But I thought of it again recently, because over the weekend I was out at the bar with a few friends and colleagues, and I started telling them about when I started to watch a lot of Steven Seagal films (thanks to Seagalogy). As I described the final moments of On Deadly Ground, at least two different people made the connection to An Inconvenient Truth. So I’m taking this as evidence (however slight) that Al Gore pretty much ripped off Steven Seagal.

    And the more I think about it, I believe that Charles is right. On Deadly Ground has a certain hook to it that isn’t completely dependent on Seagal. Although, I would prefer if they did a “spiritual sequel” to On Deadly Ground like they did with Bad Lieutenant. There are a lot of environmental problems in the world, so the possibilities are pretty much endless.

  28. Ah, let’s not be down on the Dagestanis. If wearing THOSE hats whilst wearing swords isn’t Badass Juxtaposition, I don’t know what is.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dagestan#/image/File:Dagestani_man_and_woman.jpg

  29. First of all, those are awesome hats. Second of all, I have to apologize for that joke, even though I don’t know of anyone taking offense. I just don’t know that part of the world at all so I thought it would be absurd to be racist against Dagestanis. But maybe some people are, I would have no idea because of my ignorance. So please disregard that part.

  30. I thought the joke was that Dagestan was a made up country, so I’m even more ignorant here.

  31. Dikembe – no, that was my mistake too, I was just having trouble admitting it. I feel bad living up to the “Americans don’t know about the rest of the world” stereotype. Sorry, America.

  32. I’m going to admit that I had never heard of Dagestan before. If anything, this review and following discussion lead me to their Wikipedia page, so I actually think in some ways this review has done a public service.

  33. I enjoyed this entry into Seagal’s canon more than I expected. Sure it had a lot of the typical laziness of a later era Seagal/Waxman joint (although he didn’t get overdubbed once that I could detect), but there were some good bits, too. Particularly the continuity of the henchmen. There are a lot of henchmen in this film. Many of them have a unique look and all of them meet a satisfying end. I think with two stars sharing the action, it would’ve been easy to lose track of all these guys that are essentially fodder, but this film does a good job of letting you know the henchman caste system and where everyone falls into it. No Urban Justice, but a fine DTV Seagal effort all the same.

  34. Some hilarious Seagal stuff from his upcoming END OF A GUN.

    Steven Seagal in "End of a Gun" Kicking Some Butt!

    In this clip from "End of a Gun" we find Steven Seagal showing off his martial arts skills taking down a supposed security guard. This clip was distributed a...

  35. I would like to see Seagal do a heist movie.

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