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For Some Reason I Talk About Steven Seagal

Portrait of An Aikido Master As a Young Man

Action stars come and go, this is one of the rules of cinema. Sure some stay way beyond their expiration date. It isn’t like you want to see someone like say, Kevin Sorbo perform Death of A Salesman [1]. That is why the good action stars faded away and are now slowly making a comeback. It used to be so rare that we got an action movie star return to a popular franchise and make it work for the new generation. Sylvester Stallone is the exception to the rule, I mean there is no way that he should be making good action movies at 65, but he gave us Rocky Balboa AND John Rambo. Then there are the action stars who start strong and continue to have a career despite the fact that they have gotten progressively worse in every movie [2]. So with that in mind, the question posed in this Brave Blog entry is: When exactly was it Steven Seagal became the punchline of action cinema?

Steven Seagal was on the verge of true Super-Stardom in the early 90s. After a string mildly successful action movies he made Under Siege (1991) which should have sent his career to new heights. But in actuality, Seagal’s movies just got worse and worse. He kept cramming them full of environmental messages and situations that were so improbable that taking him seriously became a thing of a sheer impossibility. As an examplelet’s review the plot to Seagal’s truly ludicrous movie, The Patriot (1998). Seagal plays Dr. Wesley McClaren. Seagal is playing a medical doctor in this. I should just stop the plot review right there because the “Aw c’mon man really?” factor is just to damn high. Even better, he is playing a medical doctor who also happens to be a former Government Research Immunologist [3].

Where the hell was I?

Oh yeah, The Patriot!

Portrait of An Aikido Master As A Young Man After Discovering The Joys of Eating Bacon


Anyway, Seagal plays Dr. Wesley McClaren, a medical doctor in Ennis, Montanna. Dr. McClaren is a former Government Research Immunologist, who has a specialty in herbal medicine and self-defense. Seriously, how can you expect me to go on after that fucking sentence? I mean fuck, even Under Siege was minutely plausible. I mean I can believe a Navy SEAL gets busted down to Galley Cook and saves an aircraft carrier from being taken over. Wait, let me re-phrase that, I can believe a Navy SEAL gets busted down to a Galley Cook for insubordination. The whole ship taken over by terrorists and then saved by a Galley Cook and a stripper part, that’s where it gets ridiculous, but fuck it, its the last of the 80s style action movies that were still getting turned out in the early 90s. Under Siege just might be the last really great one too, as all the icons of that era started making some really awful stuff afterward. Stallone tried to actually act, Schwarzenegger delivered 2 good movies with James Cameron in T2: Judgement Day and True Lies but gave us lots of crap in Last Action Hero, Jingle All The Way, Batman & Robin and End of Days. As for Chuck Norris… well Chuck Norris never really made a great action movie so we can just skip over him.

Wait wasn’t I trying to explain the premise of The Patriot?

Okay, Steven Seagal plays Dr. Wesley McClaren, a local medical Doctor in Ennis, Monatana. McClaren is a former Government Research Immunologist with a specialization in herbal medicine as well as a weapons and self-defense expert. Things are afoot as residents of Ennis are being struck down by a mysterious disease that was unleashed by some local anti-government militia. This movie was made after the FBI kind of screwed up the raid on the Branch Davidian Cult in Waco, Texas and the Ruby Ridge militia case, so Hollywood wasn’t afraid to use crazy survivalist militias as fodder for action movies, no mater how ill advised it actually may have been. People dying, anti-government nut-jobs and a mysterious tea being he only thing that can stop the virus all come into play as Seagal plays the role of a Doctor with all the depth and caring as he did when he played Nico in Above The Law (1988). Let us be clear, this is NOT a good movie but should give you an idea of just how far Seagal had fallen from grace as an action star by 1998.

Compare this against his other contemporaries in the action genre. Arnold Schwarznegger stayed strong until 1996. His last good movie that he had the lead in was Eraser in the summer of 1996. Then came the Christmas of 1996 and Jingle All The Way, a movie which Arnold still defends to this day by pointing its box office success in many Third World countries. This doesn’t excuse it from just being terrible. He followed that up by delivering awful movie after awful movie. I mean from Christmas of 96 until he became Governor of California, Arnold made nothing but crap. After Jingle All The Way came Batman & Robin (1997) and the less said about that movie the better. Even worse is Batman & Robin isn’t the WORST of the pack as you still have utter shit like End of Days, The 6th Day (2000), Collateral Damage (2002) and the awful Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines (2003) [4].

The difference between Seagal and both Schwarzenegger and Stallone is that the latter 2 had an incredible run of great blockbusters to back them up. Seagal had one true blockbuster in Under Siege. He could have capitalized but kept following up with movies that the other 2 didn’t start making until their prime had already faded. After Under Siege Seagal delivered On Deadly Ground, a movie which has the honor of not just being an awful movie but also being an awful with Michael Caine. Shit, Seagal not only starred in this one but directed it as well, resulting in a movie about Alaskan Oil Rights, the plight of the Alaskan Esmiko [5] and (like so many Seagal movies) revenge. Now Michael Caine has been in a few bad movies, but he’s Michael Caine and can usually at least muster a performance that can make the average movie watcher say “This sucked… except for Michael Caine”. Well this is the movie where that doesn’t apply. On Deadly Ground is so bad not even Michael Caine is good in it. Stop and chew on that fact for awhile!

Steven Seagal or Jack Donaghey: You Decide!

Now I can go ahead and analyze every Seagal movie after Under Siege up until his pretty fun urn in Machete (2011) but what the hell is the point? For every good movie that Seagal was in I’d have to talk about 5 bad ones. Well fuck that noise son! I’m not going to do that to you, what few faithful readers I have. Most importantly, I am not going to do that to myself because, honestly, that is just too much for one man to sit through without taking up heavy drinking. No sir, what you can expect for the next 4 installments of Brave Blog are a very candid looks at Seagal’s first four major studio films in the order they were released so you can get an idea of where he was going before Under Siege made him a big star and yet simultaneously ruined his career. We’ll start in a week or two with his best overall movie Above The Law, which is really one of the most underrated action films of the 80s. From there we’ll dissect the rather absurd premise of Hard To Kill (1990). Then we’ll delve into Seagal’s first foray into failed social commentary with Marked For Death (1990) and then we’ll wrap it all up with the one of the most physically violent revenge films of the the last 30 years, <strong>Out For Justice (1991). What I hope the analysis of these 4 movies will do is try to figure out what went wrong with a man that was once on a promising road to action stardom and how it really could have been so much more than it ended up being.

So Bond up Son!

The Steven Seagal Super Cinematic Spectacular
is coming your way [6]!

[1] Provided, Kevin Sorbo’s major attempt at being an action movie star was Kull The Conqueror, a movie so bad I’m stunned Kull creator Robert E. Howard didn’t rise from the grave himself to cleave Sorbo in twain with a broadsword.

[2] This rule doesn’t apply to major action stars from Hong Kong. Jackie Chan turns 60 in 2 years and still won’t stop doing insane shit on film. The same goes for Sammo Hung (60) and Donnie Yen cetainly ain’t getting any younger (48). Thank God Stephen Chow (48) is slowing down and hasn’t starred in anything since his unexpectedly moving science fiction film CJ7.

[3] Amazingly enough Seagal as an ex-Research Immunologist is still more believable than Tara Reid as an Archeologist/Museum Curator in Alone In The Dark.

[4] His one redeeming movie was the remake of Around The World In 80 Days (2004), where he played against type as the comedic antagonist in a movie with Jackie Chan.

[5] I think I’m being redundant by saying “alaskan Eskimo”. I mean If I say Eskimo is someone online going to write me a nasty comment about the plight of the Portugese Eskimo?

[6] Not right away mind you… soon… or soonish is more likely…

Next Time: Above The Law!

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