Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Dangerous Man

Steven Seagal has made some of my favorite movies of all time, like “Out for Justice”, “Hard to Kill”, “Above the Law”, “Under Siege”. He’s also made some unwatchable garbage, but that’s beside the point. His fight with Dan Inosanto in “Out for Justice” is on my short list of best fights ever.

In honor of “Machete”, his first theatrically released movie in quite some time, I thought I would see what else he’s been up to and watch something recent. Even though his movies haven’t found their way to the local mega-plex, we all know that Seagal has been prolific in the direct-to-video market, knocking out three or four movies a year. And even though few people believe me, every third or fourth one of those is pretty good (“Urban Justice” and “Belly of the Beast” are prime examples). Unfortunately, “A Dangerous Man”, his most current DTV release, isn’t one of those.
Once again Seagal teams with director Keoni Waxman, who he worked with on “The Keeper”. He plays Shane Daniels, an ex-member of Special Forces who goes to prison for a murder he didn’t commit. But hold on, that’s not where this story is going. Shane gets out of prison six years later, his innocence affirmed, but his wife has left him, his life is generally crappy, and he’s mad about it. Some guys try to jack him outside a liquor store, and he whoops their asses. In his defense, he did tell one guy to back off or “I’ll fuck you up ugly.” That’s fair warning.
So Shane is drinking at a rest stop when Sergey (Jesse Hutch), son of a local Russian mob boss, pulls in for a pee break in a stolen SUV. Then a car with two Chinese gentlemen gets pulled over at the same rest stop. They kill the cop, and Shane steps in to save Sergey before they can kill him. He does so by blowing up his own car as a distraction. Shane and Sergey discover a gym bag full of money and an unconscious girl, Tia (Marlaini Mah), in the trunk. They grab the cash and girl and take off.
After that the plot turns into a needlessly convoluted mess. There is the Russian mob, the Chinese mob, corrupt cops, drug smuggling, human smuggling, double-crosses that come out of nowhere, and an awkward attempt to get philosophical right at the end. The acting is wooden across the board, and Mah sounds like she’s reading all of her lines off of cue cards. Shane’s back-story is pointless. Going to prison, losing his wife, etcetera, has no bearing on anything. The only reason it exists is so that he can have flashbacks where his wife is naked.
What “A Dangerous Man” does have going for it, is that the action and fight scenes stand up. At the end of the day, isn’t that what a Steven Seagal movie is all about? And he’s in pretty good form here. There are a couple big shootout scenes where all sorts of hell breaks loose, and he has to weave his way in and out of danger, whooping ass and saving his new friends as he goes.
The climax takes place in a sawmill, which provides excellent and interesting opportunities to dispatch nameless bad guys. Wood chippers and saw blades are wonderful killing tools. When Shane fights The Colonel (Bryon Mann, Ryu from “Street Fighter”) it might be over too quickly, but as far as culminating, hand-to-hand combat scenes go, it’s not bad.
“A Dangerous Man” isn’t one of Seagal’s best movies, but it’s far from his worst. The story may be muddy, but the action kicks ass, and there is plenty of it. So, if you’re like me, biding your time until September, when you can see Seagal as he was meant to be seen, thirty-feet tall on a giant movie screen, give “A Dangerous Man” a shot, it will tide you over.

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