“Listen brother, if I get back in, a thousand motherfuckers are going to die.” So begins Steven Seagal‘s involvment in yet another convoluted mission the CIA needs him to handle. It’s all off the books of course though I am never sure how anything a guy with his weird hair, odd fashion sense and distinctive orange tinted prescription eyeglasses does could ever be off the books. And if it all ends up being several hundred dead motherfuckers short of Seagal’s earlier promise, I feel pretty good about taking an IOU from him since Contract to Kill was his seventh film of 2016.
Seventh film of the year! You are no doubt thinking that Seagal is in danger of stretching himself too thin taking on so many projects in rapid succession! No need to worry because based on his appearance in this film, the only thing in danger of getting stretched too thin is the fabric of his 4XL coats who are working at least as hard as all the eastern European stuntmen getting slapped and kicked down stairs.
To the movie’s credit, I was able to follow what was happening for about the first half before I got lost in a jumble of Agency doublecrosses, hidden agendas and Seagal’s mumbling. Initially, it’s all quite simple – the Mexican drug cartels are teaming up with Al Qeada and Al-Nusra Front to form an alliance. The cartels get supplies and manpower to expand in the Middle East, while the Islamic terrorist organizations get access to Mexican drug smuggling routes into the United States that they could use to smuggle in men and suitcase nukes.
Seagal’s mission is to find out where the meeting to seal the alliance is going to be held and then take them down. Before the mission though, he needs to question two guys busted at the border who are involved in this scheme.
Seagal’s form of interrogation is worse than any waterboarding as it is just him explaining in painstaking detail the particulars of the cartel/terrorist plot to the point that the bad guy seems to get so tired of hearing big Steve blathering on, he just admits everything in hopes that Steve will finally shut up. (This also demonstrates that in a Seagal movie, no one is necessary except him. Even where a normal movie would require a character to deliver some vital piece of plot to the hero, in a Seagal movie, he just magically knows it already and then brags about how much he already knows.)
In an effort to perhaps make the movie palatable to overseas audiences, while en route to Turkey to confront the bad guys, Steve takes time out during the plane ride to provide what amounts to a disclaimer where he says “we don’t give a fuck about anybody’s fucking religion, we don’t care about what their ethnicity is.” Well said, Steve. We should respect everyone’s fucking religion. To further drive home his point, Steve concludes with “it’s like a monkey trying to fuck a football now really, this whole thing, it’s just a fucking mess.” Could some international think tank have framed the issue any clearer than that?
Everything after this legendary policy speech on religious tolerance by Steve is of course a woefully underwhelming Steve stew of surveillance, beating up people, the various villains bickering and not trusting each other, and a change of mission that has Steve having a sit down discussion with the real target of the operation, a Islamic terrorist bomb maker. It is a frank discussion where Steve acknowledges understanding warriors fighting for their causes and countries, but not at the expense of innocent women and children. It all ends with a very frank headshot, but there’s no time to reflect on any of that because Steve waddles into the next scene where he has to kill the last remaining cartel members.
Only Steve’s wacky dialogue saves Contract to Kill from completely leaving you feeling like you’re a football in the possession of an amorous primate. Having the bad guys being so easily manipulated by Steve’s transparent schemes to turn them against each other, only makes the bad guys not seem like much of a threat.
And why didn’t these guys cool things off once they saw a drone with a camera hovering around them? And what benefit is it to the cartel to assist Islamic terrorists in carrying out terror attacks on the US? Seems like that might be bad for business and cause the US to get serious about eliminating the cartels. And why didn’t Steve just kill everyone when he was spying on their pre-meeting from the hotel room next to theirs?
Director Keoni Waxman who has worked with Seagal several times in the past to varying degrees of success (Killing Salazar, A Good Man, Absolution) at least solidly disguises Seagal’s physical limitations in the fight scenes, but he also wrote the script which I couldn’t make heads or tails of once Seagal’s CIA handler changed the plan for some reason. Steve is also portrayed as quite the ladies man (for no reason necessary to the plot) as he uncomfortably paws at women at least half his age, leaving the audience (and probably his co-stars if they were honest) feeling a bit icky.
Quality certainly becomes an issue when you are unleashing the sheer quantity of product Seagal does, but he occupies such a unique place in modern cinema that even when you watch something as poorly put together and dull as Contract to Kill, you’re not sure if you are watching a disaster or classic Seagal. Like a sumo-sized Silver Screen alchemist, Steven Seagal has somehow unlocked the secret to turning absurdly incompetent action movies into viewing experiences that merely feel numbingly routine.
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