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Thursday, January 28, 2010

THE KEEPER -- DVD review by porfle

You have to hand it to Steven Seagal--he's managed to maintain a fairly popular action-hero persona that barely requires him to either move or speak intelligibly. These days, his movies don't even have to be very good at all as long as he's in them. His latest, THE KEEPER (2009), dog-paddles in the DTV end of the pool with the rest of his recent output, neither sinking all the way to the bottom nor demonstrating any fancy strokes to speak of.

The first ten minutes are a mini-movie in which Steven, as L.A. cop Roland Sallinger, is shot by his two-timing partner during a drug bust. He survives, then manages to kill the rat from his hospital bed when he comes to finish the job. Forced to retire due to his injuries, Roland then accepts an offer from his old friend Connor Wells, an ex-cop who's now a Texas oil millionaire, to play bodyguard for his daughter Nikita. She's in danger because a rival millionaire named Jason Cross wants to kidnap her in order to force Wells to sign over some land on which uranium has been discovered. Complicating things is the fact that Nikita's weaselly boyfriend Mason, a two-bit boxer, is in league with Cross.

I'm sure you'd like for me to skip the preliminaries and get to the action scenes, because we don't watch Steven Seagal movies for the acting and dialogue, right? Well, he hasn't been in town for five minutes before he sees a young Mexican woman in distress and has his limo driver pull over so he can whoop a few bad-guy butts. As most of us are aware by now, his fighting style now consists mainly of standing in one spot while flailing his arms wildly, disarming his opponents and bending their arms the wrong way until the bones crack.

Occasionally, he'll let loose with a low kick--his days of planting a flying foot in somebody's face are long past. And even with this limited mobility, a stand-in is often used for the shots in which his character is required to move with some semblance of agility. These fight scenes consist of many short shots and rapid-fire editing to give the illusion that our hero is a lightning-fast flurry of movement.

That said, it's still Steven Seagal, and somehow that's enough. I like the way he strolls into a heated situation and makes the bad guys suffer for being stupid enough to take him on. I'd love to be able to do that myself. And he's so damn sure of himself, mixing it up with multiple opponents with a supreme confidence that's bracing. It's especially fun when he screws around with them a little first, pretending to be intimidated, before giving them that patented Steven Seagal scowl and laying into them. And on the plus side, he seems to have shed some weight since the last time I saw him, so he no longer resembles a giant burrito or appears to be wearing his car instead of just driving it.

Later, there's a kidnapping attempt involving a car chase, and a couple of minor shoot-em-ups on the streets. A few more quick hand-to-hand battles lead up to the final confrontation between Steve and the kidnappers, with Nikita's life in the balance. It's all passable stuff, but none of it is in any way memorable or outstanding. The big guy does put his hand through somebody's throat at one point, which fulfills the requirement that he do something really overtly violent at least once per movie to whatever bad guy wins the honor of deserving it.

Technically, THE KEEPER is your basic meat-and-potatoes job with some irritating stylistic touches thrown in. There's the speed-up-slow-down effect, the appeal of which I never understood, mixed with quick camera moves that make a whooshing noise. Even a brief pan of some trophies Steve has amassed during his cop career does the speed-up-slow-down thing and makes a whooshing noise. Oh yeah, and some of the transitions are accompanied by a flashing white light that also makes a whooshing noise. I guess it's all meant to make the movie look more hip and contemporary, but that kind of stuff just has DTV written all over it. Seagal's 2007 film URBAN JUSTICE eschewed all of that crap for a leaner and more old-school, Don Siegel-type visual style and is all the better for it. To his credit, though, director Keoni Waxman spares us the usual Shaky-Cam overload.

As for the cast, most are capable performers. Steph DuVall as Wells and Luce Rains as Cross are a couple of old pros who know their stuff (although DuVall slips up and calls Seagal's character "Ballinger" at one point), while Arron Shiver does a good job as the slimeball Mason. As Nikita, Liezl Carstens handles the screaming and being scared parts well. When paired with Seagal for a dialogue scene, however, it's as though they're competing in a slow race to see who can underplay the other, and they may have you wondering which one will simply keel over unconscious first.

Seagal, as usual, emotes as though his meds just kicked in and his lines are being fed to him through an earpiece. This time around, he doesn't have any good lines such as "I'm gunna kill the muhfuh that killed mah son", nor the kind of vengeance-driven motivation that a dead wife or family member can provide, both of which are missed. And also unlike URBAN JUSTICE, which had a fadeout that was just cool as hell, this movie just ends when it runs out of stuff to do.

The DVD from 20-Century Fox is in 1.78:1 widescreen with English 5.1 Dolby Digital and Spanish Dolby Surround, subtitled in English and Spanish. There are no extras.

With THE KEEPER, you get pretty much what you might expect by now--standard latter-day Seagal with just enough of the old magic to keep it from being totally dispensible, yet little to make it of any interest to anyone but his most loyal fans. If you're among that number, check it out. Otherwise, why bother?

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1 comment:

Scorescapes said...

Nice little review. Just finished watching it after avoiding most of his other (dubbed/stand-in) DTV efforts Ive read about. Its good to see Seagal out of his old multi-picture contract and making some better movies.

Not a masterpiece by any means but a good way to kill 95 mins. 5/10.