"We're still at war, Plissken. We need him alive."

"I don't give a fuck about your war... or your president."

Seized

SEIZED is the long-awaited new one from DTV superteam Scott Adkins and Isaac Florentine. Though lately Adkins has formed a strong actor/director partnership with Jesse V. Johnson, it was Florentine who first gave him a showcase in SPECIAL FORCES and then made him an icon with UNDISPUTED II and III, plus NINJA and NINJA II: SHADOW OF A TEAR. This is their first reteam in at least four years – I have my suspicions about 2016’s excellent BOYKA: UNDISPUTED (credited to another director), but officially Florentine’s last time directing Adkins was 2015’s CLOSE RANGE.

This one is closer to the latter – another story about a guy single-handedly taking on cartels to protect his family. This time it’s more like a Hollywood thriller, more emphasis on the high concept and complex action sequences than martial arts. He’s kind of a JOHN WICK, settled down as a widower raising his teenage son Taylor (Matthew Garbacz) and running a cyber security firm from a beautiful home in Mexico, when his secret past as an infamous CIA and/or MI5 commando called “Nero” comes roaring back.

Instead of a revenge movie it’s more of a 12 ROUNDS type forced-to-do-a-thing-by-criminal-mastermind story. Several minutes in, just when you’re wondering how much of a Scott Adkins movie can be about him being upset about his son getting into fights at school, he gets hit with a dart, passes out, wakes up and cartel boss Mzamo (Mario Van Peebles, PANTHER, POSSE, JAWS: THE REVENGE) is on the phone giving him instructions on how to get his son back. It involves going to particular places to kill particular people using the suitcase of guns, kevlar vest and bullet proof SUV they left him.

The vest has a bodycam on it so that Mzamo can sit back and enjoy the violence. He’s like a rich guy hosting a Super Bowl party, his delighted Mexican henchmen and a group of nervous-seeming Brits watching it go down on a TV. There’s an open bar, he’s got a big bowl of popcorn, they’re cheering and celebrating each death.

There’s a high volume of action (coordinated by Larnell Stovall and choreographed by HALF PAST DEAD 2 director Art Camacho), all really well done. Lots of running into places, ducking and dodging and shooting, as well as JOHN WICK-inspired, but arguably Seagal-esque sequences running through a strip club, plowing through guy after guy, one or two or three at a time, a couple kicks here, a couple shots, a twisted arm, a bottle to the face, a plate over a head. There’s a great scene where he literally beats some guys up with his hands tied behind his back. You get some of those great moves (he ducks a punch, grabs the guy, body slams him onto a counter, hammers his head back with a kick) and details (seeing an opponent’s footwork, he switches his stance) that you hope for in a Florentine film, and at least one of those Power Rangers style whoosh sound effects.

This is Adkins in standard action hero mode, but I think informed by his more dialogue-heavy work with Johnson. But it’s not funny dialogue like in ACCIDENT MAN or DEBT COLLECTOR 1 and 2, aside from some bitter sarcasm, like when he’s being forced to massacre a restaurant full of gangsters and says, “Be back in a minute.”

There’s a good exchange that I took for this type of grim humor: Mzamo tells him not to worry about his son, who is locked in what he described as a “gas chamber,” because he’ll bring him a peanut butter sandwich. Nero tells him to be sure to cut the crust off. I thought they were both being smartasses, but a little later Mzamo in fact cuts the crust off a sandwich, brings it to Taylor and describes it as “no crusties”! He sits down, tells him “Sorry to interupt your life like this.” Taylor doesn’t accept the sandwich or the apology, but it’s the kind of unexpected touch I love these movies for, because it’s not the expected villain-being-fake-nice-in-order-to-be-menacing – he seems to mean it, for whatever that’s worth.

I like villains with layers. Also of note: the part where he thinks Nero has been killed, so he makes a little speech about why “he deserves our respect” and leads his crew in a sincere round of applause.

The lead villain is the area where I think SEIZED is a definite improvement over CLOSE RANGE. Though Van Peebles does a little fighting, it’s another case where you know it can’t be building to a big martial arts climax. But the character is interesting enough, and the performance is fun enough, that it doesn’t matter. Strutting around in rodeo attire, Van Peebles plays the character as Mexican, in the tradition of when he played Chinese in HIGHLANDER: THE FINAL DIMENSION. That mostly means he says “Vamanos!” a bunch and calls Nero “Papa,” but it’s quite clear that he is not considered an outsider. Nobody blinks when he talks about “our people” against “the gringos.”

He uses the Brits as stand-ins for Americans, flipping Trump quotes against the “gringos,” including the infamous “they’re not sending their best” line. He says he’s going to “Make the cartels great again. And make them pay for it.” But he takes pride in keeping his word, is against sex trafficking, and wants to put his resources into schools, universities and “clean fuels,” so he’s not very Trumpian.

I didn’t realize Mzamo’s wife Alanza (Karlee Perez, MAPPLETHORPE) was played by a WWE wrestler, so I was surprised by the subtle respect the movie shows for her minor character, for example cutting to her face after they all learn that someone they’re working with had Nero’s wife killed. (Fans expecting a showcase might wish for more of her, though.)

There are some themes here about violence and people who reap its benefits while being distanced from it. Mzamo and his crew watch Nero’s killings like entertainment. When Nero confesses his former profession to his son he compares it to “your video games.” Mzamo tells him to “Get your ass in there and play Call of Duty on the motherfuckers.” His feed from the bodycam looks like a first person shooter; our view often looks like a game too, usually following behind him, often looking over his shoulder.

But when one of the cartels gets the drop on Nero, Mzamo goes into rolling-up-the-sleeves t.c.b. mode and does try to handle it himself, his wife choosing to get her hands dirty as well. The one cartel boss who’s able to get the drop on Nero is the one who chooses to pick up a gun himself. (A fancy looking one he keeps on his Virgin Mary shrine.)

Not by accident, the guy we’re asked to hate most, the one willing to murder a kid, tries to do it from the other side of a wall, through a pipe, with carbon monoxide. By contrast, Mzamo not only objects to killing Taylor, but worries about him having to see all the dead bodies laying around. The whole story is leading up to a corny “you see, son…” knowing-is-half-the-battle moral about violence, but I kind of like that.

For my tastes, SEIZED is low in the rankings of Florentine-Adkins joints. Boyka is obviously a more unusual and interesting protagonist than Commando Dad here, and I miss those bone crunching, high flying martial arts duels they’re so good at staging and shooting. I hope we’ll get to see more movies like that soon. But taken on its own terms this is a solid, effective thriller with loads of good action and bits of personality in unexpected places.

This entry was posted on Friday, October 16th, 2020 at 12:44 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. 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.

22 Responses to “Seized”

  1. You see Legacy of Lies? Came out between 2 Debt 2 Collect and Seized. Not one of Adkins’ usual directors, Adrian Bol, but came up with some cool action in a James Bond knock off sort of movie. I recommend.

  2. We are in that unfortunate in-between situation where

    Adkins gets better as an actor
    At the same time that
    He gets older and possibly can’t do the insane things he did as Boyka / Ninja

    At the same time that
    B movies / vod movies get cheaper and cheaper and have less resources and days to shoot.

    I hope not, but I feel it all leads to “character” work in shody thrillers like the last trailer for his new movie “dead reckoning”.

  3. Glad you derived more enjoyment from this than I did Vern. SEIZED had exactly 2 noteworthy scenes that made me believe for a moment I was watching a solid Adkins actioner: The kitchen fight with one of the best and nastiest finishing moves in Scott’s filmography and his “look ma, no hands” takedown of some henchmen. Everything else was sub-par for an Adkins/Florentine combo.

  4. “I didn’t realize Mzamo’s wife Alanza (Karlee Perez, MAPPLETHORPE) was played by a WWE wrestler”

    She was in WWE for a bit a decade ago (mostly in its development program), but where she really shined, and what I’d guess got her some roles in movies like this since 2018, was as the Evil Witch Mastermind Manager type Catrina on Lucha Underground, the tragically short-lived pro wrestling / ridiculous fantasy telenovela hybrid produced for the El Rey Network.

  5. Ah. That makes sense. She’s cool in this small part. Hopefully she’ll get some bigger roles.

  6. I thought it was okay. The shoot out does have lack of a energy, that makes them feel static and dull. I’m not sure if this is because Florentine isn’t very good or experience with shoot outs (even thought he has done quite a few), or it wasn’t enough time, and perhaps an inexperienced stunt team. The 2012 Scott Adkins film EL GRINGO has a lot better shoot outs, with more energy, and Adkins confessed to Chad Stahelski that he saw pre-viz for the Jason Statham film SAFE and stole that for EL GRINGO. I kinda wish some of that energy was in this film. The shoot outs could really use it. I feel the film comes to life when where is some martial art. All of the brief fight scene are well shot, and deliver the punch and violence. Too bad the shoot out is lacking that.

    Even thought the shoot outs are disappointing, but still in line with what you see in most low budget action film, I really enjoy almost every scene that Melvin Van Peebles was in. He has a really good time, and makes the bad guy interesting. A step up from most bad buys in these type of films.

    I wish Netflix would give Scott Adkins a film deal. Give him 3 movies a year with $15 million budget, and he could get Florentine, Jesse V. Johnson and John Hyams to direct one each. When you see what they cand o with $1-2 million, imagine what they could do with $15 million (I think Universal Soldier Day of Reckoning actually had a budget close to $15 million, and it shows, Hyams had time and money to make decent action)

  7. I like that plan, Ghost.

  8. Inspector Hammer Boudreaux

    October 21st, 2020 at 8:51 pm

    I liked this one alright, but I’d rather see another Boyka from these two. My big complaint about this one is unfair of me, because it’s the exact premise, but so Adkins is carrying out these missions for for his daughter’s kidnappers, and I could only think that John Matrix would never take that shit.

  9. Gary Daniels is next on Scott Adkins The Art of Action.

  10. Looking forward to that. The just concluded one with Sam Hargrave was excellent.

  11. The Gary Daniels ep is up.

    The Art of Action - Gary Daniels - Episode 22

    In episode 22, Scott is joined by fellow Brit and 90's action star phenomenon Gary Daniels. Fist of the North Star, Bloodmoon, Rage, Riot, Tekken, The Expend...

  12. You guys see the trailer for SCOTT ADKINS IS MAX CLOUD? It looks….really bad.

  13. I don’t know, I’m gonna give it a chance. Wouldn’t be the first comedy trailer that makes an otherwise good movie look bad, but yeah, not sure if they went for “intentionally cheesy looking”, which could kill the movie instantly, or blew their budget on the cast and that fake video game before they filmed one shot.

  14. Yeah, I’ll probably rent it anyway but I don’t have high hopes. I might let you watch it first and report back.

  15. And while ya’ll throwin’ shade at Max Cloud, remember Adkins has another new one out called Dead Reckoning, billed as a “Millenial Romantic Thriller” with ole Scott playing a terrorist who’s loosely based on one of the Boston Marathon bombers.

    Directed by the man who thinks a Jet Li fight scene can be enhanced with clunky CGI, or thinks it’s cool to cut away from a Li Vs Dacascos fight cause we all wanna watch DMX fight some rando and edits a Seagal Vs Jai White fight into incoherence.

  16. And as I lament that the current Gods of DTV action have been putting out some sub-standard fare, I take solace and great relish from Warrior Season 2 which is just ramping up the fights and brutality with star Andrew Koji finally starting to show some of the strut of the Bruce Lee stand-in his character was always meant to be. One episode in particular, a delightful mash of Desperado and Bloodsport, has more terrific beatdowns than the last MJW and 2 Adkins’ flicks combined.

  17. I second the praise for WARRIOR. It’s always been good, but now it’s awesome.

    By the way, has anyone seen Adkins’ LEGACY OF LIES? It’s won a bunch of awards, but no one is talking about it.

  18. LEGACY OF LIES is one muddled espionage thriller. Starts off strong but then fizzles out (like the Adkins filmography of 2020) , and even Tim Man’s usually sterling choreography seem tired. It at least didn’t disappoint me as much as SEIZED which came weighted with some expectation of a Florentine/Adkins reunion.

    On that note, next to a group of teen backpackers who stumble upon some cannibalistic rednecks in the backwoods, is there a more perilous position to be in movies than a Scott Adkins offspring?

    UNIVERSAL SOLDIER DAY OF RECKONING: Daughter-Brutally murdered
    ELIMINATORS: Daughter-Kidnapped
    LEGACY OF LIES: Daughter-Kidnapped
    SEIZED: Son- Kidnapped

  19. I guess it could be worse, you could be Charles Bronson’s love interest!

  20. I don’t think Max Cloud looks bad at all. I love that Scott keeps trying different things as an actor.

  21. KayKay – That’s true, it’s a dangerous position to be in, but you could luck out and find out he’s a clone and your life and your murder were implanted memories. Also, the son in SEIZED seemed to learn from the experience.

  22. Hehehehe…yeah Vern, forgot about the memory implant revelation in Day Of Reckoning. The second most common method of erasing all trauma in movies after time travel:-)

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