After a long and frankly depressing day, I arrived home at about 9 last night intending only to slip into a slow catatonia in front of the TV, but found my only real non-involving option was the new series of 'I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here!' – not sure if you have a variation of this in the US, basically a bunch of people who quite patently are not celebrities are sent to Australia to eat insects or something – which didn't really seem like an option at all, despite the presence of smiley cello-playing, astronomy enthusiast Myleene Klass (she seems nice).
So instead, I decided to watch the new Steven Seagal opus 'Black Dawn'. I don't know if you've been keeping as close a watch on Seagal's recent activities as I have, but post-'Executive Decision' his films have gone from straight-to-video to straight-to-cable TV in Estonia. And then eventually, DVD releases. How can straight-to-DVD feel cheaper than straight-to-video? I don't know, but it fucking does. Anyways, theres a few constants in the last 12-odd films that he's made:
- In the international world of espionage, nobody is what they seem. Apart from Seagal. He's ex-CIA, he has a daughter and he just wants to live his life normally in Japan where people think he's a native because of his quiet restraint and knowledge of local customs. But the FBI keep trying to FUCK WITH HIM.
- Seagal is mainly filmed from the waist up. The reasons for this are sadly obvious, particularly when you notice that he's holding his coat together in every scene. Just buy a bigger coat, Steve.
- Speaking of which, he's abandoned the totally ridiculous coats of his early films – the ones that are three times as big as him, and have a wealth of tassles. Theose coats had a really great kind of 'Fuck you, it's a Native American thing, I'm going to wear a big coat and that's that' kind of vibe. I miss them.
- Beacuse of the only-filming-above-the-waist rule, theres a whole lot of hand-to-hand combat, even when a kick would be more useful. Hand-to-hand combat is, of course, just slapping someone very quickly. Seagal uses a gun a lot more these days too, cause actually running after someone would tire him out very easily.
- The baddies are always international terrorists. Their cause is often unclear, but their aim is always the same: kidnap Seagal's daughter. Not sure why they think this is a good idea, to be honest.
- Mystical shit. It used to be that Seagal would sneak in some philosophical elements to his Waner Bros. era films, most notably in 'On Deadly Ground' where he breaks somebody's neck in a bar fight, and then asks the horrified onlookers 'What does it take to change the essence of a man's soul?'. I had a few sleepless nights with that one, let me tell you. But Seagal has abandoned philosophy like he abandoned his big coats. Now his films have all kinds of weird mystical shit in them. Case in point: In 'Belly Of The Beast', Seagal takes time out from a car chase to visit a woman in the back of a shop, who takes her clothes off to reveal a message in chinese lettering glowing on her breasts. Then they disappear. I am not making this up.
- Seagal's one-liners are nowadays the kind of thing your mate's alcoholic dad used to grunt. 'You're a real piece of shit' was a highlight in Black Dawn.
- He generally runs into a protege of his during his adventures. She will be 20 years younger than him, and they will have sex. Of course you won't actually see this, but there again, why would you want to?
So, the one I watched last night was 'Black Dawn' and almost all the ingredients were there, save for two essentials: no kidnapped daughter, and no mystical shit. The plot concerned Seagal….oh, I can't remember, there was some plutonium being stolen and I think the Russians were the bad guys. At one point their evil leader says 'Don't dilly-dally' which makes me suspect that the actor playing him may not actually be russian. Anyways, a redeeming feature was just how degradingly cheap the thing was. There's some incredibly bad blue-screen work here that has to be seen to be believed – mostly during a scene where Seagal and his protege are escaping in a truck, and it looks like the background is a photograph that's being waved about by some hapless runner. During the truck chase theres a point where its fairly noticable that Seagal's stunt double is a) wearing a wig, and b) black, which kinda ruins the gritty realism of the piece. The big finish concerns Seagal throwing a nuclear bomb into the sea from a CGI helicopter, and the whole thing looks like a demo for the Sega Megadrive.
Still, it's Seagal, and I can't stay mad at him. At the end of the film, his protege answers a phone call inviting her to be honored by the President of The USA for saving the world and that, and Seagal, knowing that his work is done, waddles off into the sunset. He'll be back, and God help me, so will I.