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Friday, December 6, 2013
Steven Seagal continues to keep one big foot planted firmly in the action sub-genre that he himself created--namely, the "Steven Seagal movie"--but in the case of the mildly entertaining FORCE OF EXECUTION (2013) his participation is noticeably limited to little more than "guest star" status.
Just as the titles of these movies are now mostly random combinations of the same group of words, the plot of this latest Seagal foot-fest is a simple mix of action and gangster movie tropes upon which to hang fight sequences like Christmas ornaments.
But let's face it--that's just what we want, as long as it's put together with skill and a little pizzazz, as this minor but watchable effort is. This time, Seagal plays his usual ex-military badass who now uses his training to advance himself to kingpin status in the world of crime. When he sends his most trusted man, Roman Hurst (Bren Foster, MAXIMUM CONVICTION, "Days of Our Lives") on an important hit, it's deliberately botched by Ice Man (Ving Rhames), an up-and-coming gang boss who wants to move up in Steve's crime family before taking it over himself. Roman gets the blame, is punished by having his hands broken, and is sent into exile as a street bum.
While drinking his way through his new life, Roman befriends an ex-con named Oso (Danny Trejo) who runs a diner along with Roman's heartthrob, the lovely Karen (Jenny Gabrielle, SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN). When Oso and Karen get drawn into the escalating war between Steve and Ice Man, Roman realizes he must knock himself back into some kind of fighting shape in order to protect both them and his former boss, to whom he is still loyal for some damn reason I couldn't quite figure out.
It's the same tired old plot about warring crime lords vying for top-dog spot in a particular hood, but you really don't have to worry too much about the details as long as you keep track of who the good bad guys are as opposed to the really bad, evil, nasty bad guys. The violence-enriched story by Richard Beattie (MAXIMUM CONVICTION) and first-timer Michael Black doesn't quite flow but instead jerks forward from one cliched situation to the next, coming to life when these trash-talking bastards threaten, torture, or physically attack each other.
Seagal, thank goodness, seems to have managed to keep his weight down lately and wears something that looks more like a regular suit than a muu-muu. In fact, he seems to be in the same relatively spry shape as in the recent MAXIMUM CONVICTION, another film by director Keoni Waxman (HUNT TO KILL, THE KEEPER) which really scored a home run while giving stars Seagal and Steve Austin plenty to do.
But even though he's more sedentary these days, Steve's strengths lie in how he uses his still considerable presence, talking trash and being the baddest mofo in whatever room he happens to saunter into. And by now, director Waxman knows how to work his movie magic in order to make it look as though the big guy is doing more than just flailing his arms and letting a stand-in do all the heavy lifting. Steve's fans are well aware that he does a minimum of the agile stuff himself these days, so just getting the illusion right is pretty much all we can ask.
Waxman does well with a decent script and knows how to put together a terse, coherent action scene in which quick cutting adds to the excitement rather than the confusion. In fact, you can almost sense his own cinematic excitement gearing up when the talking's done and it's time to get down to business.
With the young and athletic Bren Foster, whose character is actually FORCE OF EXECUTION's main attraction, Waxman has someone he can work with to create some wildly furious fight scenes in which guns and knives come into play as well as fists and feet. As an actor, Foster reminds me of a perpetually nonplussed Colin Farrell, which is either good or bad according to your own tastes. Action-wise, he's got the kind of moves (including a very good spin-kick) that make fans of this kind of flick happy.
Ving Rhames has some fun chomping on the scenery as a more jovial version of PULP FICTION's Marcellus Wallace, delivering lines like "It's lucky for you I promised my mama I wouldn't kill anybody today" and shooting off two guns at a time with both eyes shut tight. The ever-reliable Danny Trejo, who should be well on his way to "national treasure" status by now, also seems to be having a good time, especially when using his witch doctor skills to apply deadly scorpions to an unwilling patient in order to "heal" his wounds. As Karen, Jenny Gabrielle makes an appealing love interest/damsel-in-distress for Foster's hero to rescue from her dastardly captors.
The 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish. The sole extra is a behind-the-scenes featurette.
By the final reel, Steven Seagal has geared up into commando mode to fight off Ving and his men in his own fortress of crime, which leads to a highly eventful (but seemingly rushed) finale. While nowhere near the rollicking success of MAXIMUM CONVICTION, and lacking anything resembling URBAN JUSTICE's cool-as-hell ending, FORCE OF EXECUTION still manages to provide more than the minimum requirement of entertainment that we've come to expect from the latter-day Seagal.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by Porfle Popnecker at 10:50 PM